Calgary·Photos

She dives under ice into mountain lakes but says it's not scary — it's 'very, very intense' meditation

Free diving under ice into freezing lakes in the Rocky Mountains could sound scary to some, but an Alberta diver says the experience is a fantastic form of meditation.

Lorenza Malaguti and the Calgary Freediving Club aren't deterred by winter

Why this Calgarian free dives in Alberta's icy mountain waters

2 years ago
Duration 2:41
What seemed terrifying at first has turned into a very peaceful and meditative experience for Calgary free diver Lorenza Malaguti.

Free diving under ice into freezing lakes in the Rocky Mountains could sound scary to some, but an Alberta diver says the experience is a fantastic form of meditation.

Lorenza Malaguti, who lives in Calgary, says she goes out with the Calgary Freediving Club to cut a hole in the middle of ice and dive in for both training purposes and the experience — even in the middle of winter.

"Once you get good at diving in cold water, you can then dive in warm water with more ease," she told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday.

"I've never had my mind be as clear as it is underwater at depth. That is part of free diving. It's a very, very intense form of meditation. You need to slow your breath, slow your mind, slow your heart rate and then you go down. You don't think of anything else. You're just underwater. There is no sound. There's nothing. It's peace and it's fantastic."

Malaguti waits at a distance from another member of the Calgary Freediving Club, as they observe COVID-19 public health distancing at Lake Minnewanka this winter. (Submitted by Lorenza Malaguti)

The team has swum in Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park, a glacier-fed lake at Smutwood Mountain in Kananaskis Country and Quarry Lake in Canmore. 

"You know I thought it was going to be scary the first time I did it. I thought, 'Oh my God. I'm going to be under ice. It's terrifying.' But you're lanyarded in. We're very safe. Safety at the top. We have scuba divers at the bottom. Extremely safe. And actually it wasn't scary at all," she said.

Malaguti says she free dived as a child growing up in Europe, but doing it under ice is a whole other ballgame.

Malaguti prepares for a free dive on a previous winter, pre-COVID-19. 'You know I thought it was going to be scary the first time I did it. I thought, Oh, my God. I'm going to be under ice. It's terrifying. But you're lanyarded in.' (Julia Barnes/Honubelle)
Malaguti enters the water before a dive in pre-COVID times, in the winter of 2019-20. (Julia Barnes/Honubelle)

"It's not so much for performance like how long can I stay under, work on your breath-hold, work on your depth training. It's not about that. It's the experience. The water is so cold. It's 1 C. You could barely hold your breath," she said.

However, the diver says once you can get into the water, it can be fun and peaceful.

"I'd say 15, 20 minutes, you start to kind of acclimatize and try to relax a little bit."

She says she finds that it's great for meditating.

A view from underneath the ice. (Olivier Aubin)
Malaguti dives under the ice in Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park in 2021. Winter doesn't deter Malaguti or other members of the Calgary Freediving Club. (Submitted by Lorenza Malaguti)

"There's nowhere else that's going to be that quiet," she said.

Malaguti says anyone can do it with the proper safety training, and there are courses offered in Calgary. She says if anyone out there is interested in trying the hobby, she recommends getting at least Level 1 training and joining their group. 

"We're a small team here in Calgary but there are a few of us," said Malaguti. "There's more people out on the West Coast, and Vancouver and the Island that do it quite more regularly than we do."

Malaguti says she also travelled the world before the pandemic hit, putting her skills to good use, and hopes to head back to Hawaii as soon as she can.

The view as Malaguti re-emerges from below the ice in pre-COVID times. (Olivier Aubin)
The view as Malaguti takes a dive in Hawaii in earlier, pre-COVID times, a place she hopes to get back to for training post-pandemic. (Submitted by Lorenza Malaguti)
Malaguti practices deep relaxation and breath technique for her ice diving, at Cedar & Steam in Calgary. (Julia Barnes/Honubelle)

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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