Living Free by SUP - A YOLO Adventure by Karen Merlinbrink

Living Free by SUP - A YOLO Adventure by Karen Merlinbrink

Karen SUP Free Dive 2

I am always on the quest for new adventures. So when the opportunity presented itself for me to try Freediving, I took it

by the horns. My local dive shop asked me if I’d like to take a certification course, and I said “Sure!” Since I am of

ignorant to anything diving, I thought, “Hey, I like to snorkel, and I can hold my breath.” Even better, I thought, since it

isn’t so gear intense, that I could do it from my YOLO Board. Game on! I didn’t expect it to be the physical challenge it

has become for me, nor my next new love in the water.


Freediving is a form of underwater diving where the diver relies on only one breath to descend and ascend from the

water. That’s right; there are no tanks, just simple equipment and your lungs. The experience provides a great sensation

of relaxation (because you have to lower your heart rate to hold your breath), freedom, silence, and a true immersion

into nature. I mentioned my new adventure to my friends and family, and they all thought I was either crazy or going to

die – or both. Freediving has a really bad rep, and I have heard many stories where people have died. “Hey, didn’t that

guy from the Mavericks movie die freediving?” Yep, yes he did. Like any other ignorantly invincible response, I just say,

“It was most likely because he didn’t freedive safely.”


The certification course I took (through SSI), definitely trained me to be safe. It has been a long time since I took a class

that allowed me to have fun, but, in this case, it was well worth it. I learned how to keep myself safe, how to keep my

dive buddy safe (because you NEVER DIVE ALONE), how to breathe properly, what is going on physiologically when

freediving, and how to rescue someone if the worst thing happens. I have to admit, after the first class, I felt a little

worried that I got myself in over my head, but after the final open water dives, I felt confident, safe, and strong. Even

better, I walked away with new dive buddies to take on new adventures with, and a HUGE respect for freediving safety.

I haven’t been freediving very long, but I can say that it has already changed my life in many ways. I find myself

practicing Yoga nearly every day, all with the intention to improve my breathing, be able to relax more easily, and to

increase my flexibility for freediving. I am back in the pool swimming laps at least twice a week, working on breath

consistency and fitness. All of those things also help improve my SUP race training with new cross training efforts, which

is really exciting.


One of the coolest things freediving is doing for me is making me take my day off of training and working to do

something different, fun, and water bound. For example, just the other weekend, a bunch of friends and I loaded the

YOLO’s and headed to Dunnellon, Florida to explore the crystal clear water of the Rainbow River. It wasn’t the hardest or

deepest dives we could do, but it sure was a fun day on the water, exploring it all in a way I have never done before.

Onward I go into new adventures in the deep blue, harnessing my inner mermaid. I can’t wait to see how far freediving

and my YOLO Board will take me!


(Author’s note: There are serious risks when freediving. If you wish to try freediving, visit your local dive shop that offers

freediving training. Learn how to dive properly and learn how to be safe.)


by YOLO Team Rider Karen Mirlenbrink



Check out her video of the rainbow river adventure.

Karen's Kit


Orange Crush 12'6" x 25 1/2"


EJ Johnson Elite Race Paddle

Hammerhead Fins and wetsuits

Aqua lung mask

....and a heart of gold. (sold nowhere)

Learn more about Karen at

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#YOLOboard #FreeDiving #Paddleboarding #RainbowRiver #TeamYOLO #YOLOAdventures