For Kiki Bush, a cold-water submarine that doesn’t use oxygen bottles, there is one rule when it enters icy water: It silences its brain.
The professional submarine has switched from scuba diving in Southeast Asia to bottlenecked diving in the icy waters of the Arctic to put her experience of sexual assault behind her. She chose the rugged beauty of Finland’s greenland fjords and frozen lakes.
Her inspiring story is now cast in the award-winning documentary coming down Directed by Nez Baghi. The documentary, which premiered in the UK at the Raindance Film Festival from October 28 to November 7, narrates her journey to recovery and makes a great demonstration of the therapeutic power to take on challenges. We talked to Kiki about her most memorable moments, her favorite dive sites and how she overcame her shock in the cold water.
She dived all over the world. Is there a specific place that you feel is most relevant?
This is Silvera, in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. There she dipped in cold water for the first time. You’re literally swimming between two tectonic plates over there. On one side you can touch America and on the other side is one of Europe’s paintings. This puts everything, especially the human body, in a different perspective.
Have you ever had private encounters with animals?
I once experienced something amazing on an expedition near Tromsø in Northern Norway. We just wanted to go back as it was getting dark quickly. But we got a letter from a tour company saying there was a group of killer whales in the area, so we immediately jumped into the water to see them. It wasn’t long before other cruise boats arrived, and killer whales were swimming deeper and deeper, so we wanted to leave. As soon as I got upstairs, I suddenly saw a huge humpback whale that had surfaced to catch its breath. He was an arm’s length from me. I can look into his eyes closely. On that day I experienced a spiritual moment. I felt so grateful that these animals allowed us to approach them for a moment.
Have you had moments of anxiety?
Start. Nowhere do I feel more at home than in the ocean. I spend a lot of time in nature, I even lived for a time in Australia in a cave near Sydney.
And are there moments that are still very clear to you?
While filming a short film in Norway, I lost consciousness while diving. When I got up again, I could no longer feel warm. I felt my heart couldn’t handle it anymore. When I finally got back into the water, I had to restore that relationship of trust with the ocean. This experience changed my life, it was a near death experience.
You follow and learn the Wim Hof’s method of diving in cold water. Is this a growing trend?
There is a community of people who meet weekly to access the cold waters, found all over the world. People want to experience the power of nature, like the cold. For me, this is the height of awakening. You have to completely get out of your mind and be completely present in your body and in your breath. This is the great thing about this post. It brings people together and helps them meet their personal challenges together. I love teaching people how to change your nervous system and outlook on life by submerging yourself in cold water.
How did adventure help you deal with your personal trauma?
Adventure played an important role in my recovery. By setting out on an adventure, whatever it may be, you challenge yourself. When you do that, you are dealing with something bigger than you, and you can look differently at the bad things you have been through. The main reason for doing what I do is because the cold helps my recovery. So I passed the lowest levels of my life. She taught me how to cope with my trauma, depression, and doubts and eventually become a better person.
There are a lot of people looking at you. Who are you admiring?
a lot of people. They all have one thing in common: They step out of their comfort zone and out of boring everyday life. Be it extreme sports, meditation, or everything in between, mental and physical challenges ensure that people see what the human body is capable of. I admire everyone who pushes the boundaries of what humans currently know, whether they are scientists or mathematicians.
How do you prepare for your adventures?
I am attracted by places of rugged beauty, where you can feel the primal power of nature, such as Iceland and Greenland. I find those countries very interesting. In Iceland, you can experience all seasons in one day. Great to see.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
This is esoteric, but very important. Go back to yourself and to your breath. Always be grateful.
Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to start plunging into cold water without additional oxygen?
Challenge yourself step by step. Take a cold bath for five seconds, then make it ten seconds and gradually increase it up to one minute. By challenging yourself a little every day and stepping out of your comfort zone to your strength, you can also control yourself in extreme conditions.
documentary coming down From Nays Baghai of 2020 passes Kiki Bush. The film won the Best Australian Documentary Award at the Sydney Film Festival. In the United Kingdom, Descent premiered at the Raindance Film Festival (which took place from October 28 to November 7).
This article was originally published in English on NationalGeographic.uk