A Gotha resident, Jimenez’s passion for water has led her to becoming a talented free-diver.
Fifty miles off the coast of Florida, the crystal blue waters of the Bahamas offers up the perfect dive.
With her goggles and swimfins on, Krystal Jimenez takes to the water to begin her exploration of a shipwreck that sits just offshore of the island.
As she hits around the 15-foot mark, she grabs a hold of part of the wreckage, feeling the rust and age set upon it by years of sitting on the sandy floor.
Down here — well below the cresting waves — Jimenez finds her happy place.
“While you’re down there underwater, you’re not really thinking about anything — you just feel really free,” Jimenez said. “I’ve done scuba-diving, and it’s great — you get to experience the sea creatures and another world — but with the scuba gear and everything, you kind of feel out of place down there. When you’re free-diving and you go down there, you feel free,” she said.
That mini-dive in the Bahamas was a pretty routine one for Jimenez, especially considering her benchmark is a 50-foot free-dive that required her to hold her breath for four minutes. It’s an insane feat when you think about it, but it’s a sport with which Jimenez has been obsessed with since she can remember.
For those unfamiliar with the sport of free-diving, it’s pretty basic — you dive, without a breathing apparatus, down into deep depths of water.
Despite its simplistic nature, free-diving can push the body to its limits depending on the depths to which a diver goes. For instance, Austrian professional free-diver Herbert Nitsch currently holds the world record in the sport for depth, which he set at 831 feet in June 2012.
Although Jimenez isn’t pushing those kind of insane numbers, she’s become an impressive free-diver herself — pushing herself to become better with each dive.
But how does one get into a sport like this? It all started with a game that most of us play as children.
“It was a competition to see who could hold their breath the longest, and I made it a goal to always be the one who held their breath the longest,” Jimenez said. “In Laredo (Texas), during the summer, it’s extremely hot, and the town of Laredo there isn’t much to do, so the cool thing to do was go hang out in the pool.
“It’s me and 24 cousins that are my age,” she said. “We’d practice swimming, racing, holding breath — it literally started just from kids messing around in the pool.”
Although the Texas native started in working on her craft in the pool, she quickly moved to training in springs when she and her family moved to Florida when she was 8 years old.
Her first real dive came at Salt Springs up in Marion County. There, Jimenez dived 35 feet and set into place the notion that she was doing something cool.
“That was the first time that I was like, ‘Wow, I can actually go pretty deep,’” Jimenez said.
Although Jimenez enjoys her dives and exploration of underwater worlds, her parents — especially her mom — still get nervous whenever she goes down for long periods of time, she said.
Most times when she goes on her dives, her dad will swim down a short ways and keep an eye on her. However, once she hits a certain depth, visibility can get hazy.
“They worry if I’ve been down there for a long time,” Jimenez said, laughing. “They know that I’m a risk-taker, but they’re always there the times that I dive — especially my dad, because he is a really good swimmer like me.”
Any sport has its risks — although free-diving has its own unique challenges — which means that practice is key to limiting any possible issues.
Jimenez practices her free-diving at least once a week in local springs, although she also gets added swim practice and training as a life guard at Universal’s Volcano Bay.
The practice she puts in goes a long way to helping her push herself further, but Jimenez still considers the sport as a fun hobby. However, don’t expect her to give up her sport or goal of eventually hitting 65 to 80 feet.
“If one day I think that I have the chance to go pro, I would love to do this in competition, because I’m very competitive,” Jimenez said. “But for now, I want to do it as a hobby, because surprisingly, it’s something that relaxes me a lot. Nothing can really bother you when you’re down there.”