Jana Strain, a Canadian freediver and resident of Santa Monica, set a new Pan American WomenÕs Freediving Record Aug. 21 with a swim of 181 meters (594 feet) on a single breath, in two minutes and 20 seconds at the Aarhus Swim Stadium in Denmark. (photo by Photo Courtesy Jana Strain)

DENMARK — Santa Monica resident Jana Strain is making waves across the globe as a top competitor in her sport: freediving.

Strain, who is Canadian, set a new Pan American Women’s Freediving Record Aug. 21 with an underwater swim of 594 feet in one breath, breaking her existing record of 561 feet. Her swim lasted two minutes and 20 seconds. Strain is only the fifth woman to swim more than 574.15 feet in one breath.

She competed at the International Association for the Development of Apnea Individual Indoor Freediving Word Championships in Aarhus, Denmark. The competition is held biannually.

“I was the first woman to swim of the day and it ended up being the longest swim of the day,” Strain told the Daily Press Monday. “It was an amazing feeling after I completed what I had set out to do, I could then relax and watch the other athletes.”

This is the largest freediving event ever, with over 200 athletes from 40 nations. Dynamic apnea is an underwater swim for distance on a single breath of air using fins. Distance is measured with a metered tape measure, and judges ratify the performance. Other disciplines of freediving include tests in depth and time.

“For me, the most difficult part is dealing with my nerves before the swim,” Strain said. “There are many different disciplines in freediving and I had been training for the last year. I have been training the pool dynamic disciplines heavily for six weeks before the competition and prior to that I was focused on depth. It would have been nice to have longer to train, but that is how things worked out for me.”

Strain’s journey into freediving began when she got her open water scuba certification. Within a year, she had traveled all over the world to dive and got her instructor certification. Strain wanted to learn to dive without gear, and in May 2008, she took her first course in freediving.

That year, Strain attended the association’s team world competition and discovered her natural ability in dynamic apnea. Since then, Strain was voted the Best New International Freediver.

In 2009, Strain broke two Pan American freediving records, both without fins. She also won the title of national champion at the Canadian Indoor Finals in April before breaking her own record last week at the Denmark competition.

“I am a fairly new diver and I’m still working out things in training,” Strain said. “At the competition I learned that I still have a long way to go. I am excited to get back home where I will try some new methods in training and I can focus on my journey into myself through freediving.”

This September, Strain will be competing in the Triple Depth event in Dahab, Egypt. The event lasts from Sept. 1 — Sept. 7. Strain will finally come back to Santa Monica on Sept. 9.

“I know there is a lot more that I have left and I’m excited to start my new training program,” she said.

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