Freediver Kerry Hollowell On How She Got Her Start And More [VIDEO EXCLUSIVE]
Kerry Hollowell has been free diving for several years and has many impressive accomplishments to her name.
The 41-year-old resident of Greenville, North Carolina, sat down with uSports for an exclusive interview about how she first began competing in deep-sea diving, and what she is preparing for next, among other things.
Kerry Hollowell ON Freediving
Hollowell recently returned from two competitions, one of which was on one of the Greek Islands, where she was aiming to break a then-world record 276 feet.
“I’ve been gone since the beginning of July,” she said. “I went to the world championships [in Roatan, Honduras] and finished sixth there. Then I went to Amorgos, Greece, which is part of where [the movie] The Big Blue was filmed. Next year is the 30th anniversary of The Big Blue. That was an amazing experience because the movie is the one that a lot of free divers relate to as getting them interested in free diving. So to go to the place where it all began and see it is pretty awesome.”
The Big Blue is a 1988 English-language comedy-drama directed by French filmmaker Luc Besson and stars Jean Reno and Rosanna Arquette.
Hollowell has also been a diving instructor since 2012, and was the 2014 US team captain for the Team world championships in Sardinia, Italy. She explained that she was initially attracted to the sport upon enrolling in a PFI (Performance Freediving International) course with Evolve Freediving in Wilmington, North Carolina.
“I met a guy and I learned how to scuba dive with him and he would free dive in between the scuba dives, and I couldn’t equalize my ears past ten feet or get to the bottom of a pool,” she said with a smile. “So I found a class with PFI and got him to take it with me, and in that class both of us held our breath. He held his breath for the equivalent of the national record at the time, and I was probably a minute from the national record, which is more than most people in a beginner class can do. So the instructors encouraged us to come compete in a competition in the Cayman Islands the following year and we did. He got the national record and then I fell in love with depth disciplines.”
She continued by revealing how well she performed in that event. “I went from about 30 meters in that competition to 58. The lure of the depth grabbed me and I haven’t stopped since.”
Indeed, Hollowell reached a flabbergasting depth of 75 meters in Honduras last year. She can also hold her breath for 5:46 minutes. As if all this wasn’t enough, Hollowell is also a licensed emergency Medicine doctor.
“The doctor part of my life started way before, when I was in high school,” she said. “I was really good at science and really enjoyed learning about the human body. I went to college and had fun there, I ran track in college and I didn’t really focus on what I wanted to do until I graduated and was sitting here trying to find a job and was miserable.”
“So I just jumped and went back to college and took pre-med classes and tried to go to Medical school. I got in, and I thought back in my early 20s that I would just spend my life in a hospital, but then I realized that’s not what I want to do,” she added, laughing. “I wanted to do that some but not my entire life.”
Hollowell also revealed that she had a friend die from free diving just a few years ago.
“I had a friend, Nick Mevoli, who was the first diver to die in competition and so when that happened, people tried to get on the phone with me to get more research into what actually happened to him. I was able to do that and find some other doctors in the United States so that we could study Nick and figure out what was going on and get a better idea of a type of injury called a ‘lung squeeze’ that pressure can cause us when we go deep. So that launched me into the medical aspect of free diving.”
“I also developed a protocol for safety for divers on the platform because there were some missteps in terms of Nick’s resuscitation, and so education has been the driving force since he died.”
Mevoli, a Florida native, died at age 32 during the Vertical Blue competition in the Bahamas in November 2013.
Hollowell said she is still figuring out what competitions she will participate in next year, and said she is “working toward getting the national record in constant weights.”
“It’s about finding a balance between working and training,” she said. “But 85 [meters] is my goal for diving, and I will continue to do the world championships. They occur every two years, and I will definitely go back to Amorgos next year and possibly another competition. My training has become a lot more regimented, serious and consistent, so I hope to see some results in terms of getting to my goal.”
Hollowell also said not being married nor having children makes devoting so much time and effort to her work less difficult.