4X4: 16 Questions with Hanli Prinsloo
Freediver Hanli Prinsloo is no stranger to exploration. Her underwater adventures have changed her and shaped her life’s mission. She’s broken an impressive 11 freediving records, and when she’s not in the water, she’s working to protect it through her work as a speaker, writer, and ocean conservation foundation named "I Am Water". We took the plunge with Hanli to get to know her better and think you’ll like what’s bubbled to the surface.
© Craig Kolesky
You’re a free diver. What’s the longest you’ve held your breath?
What’s the number one lesson you take away from the ocean/water onto land?
What the ocean keeps teaching me is that I can be both soft and strong at the same time. That one doesn’t need to embrace some kind of hardness in order to be strong. It may be expected in work and life on land, but in the ocean, if you let go of softness, then you fight against something much stronger than yourself. Being soft yet strong is my number one lesson, and also that being quiet and still has great value. When our breath slows down, our body slows down. Everything that happens in water I hope to be more on land.
© Peter Marshall
Sum up your life’s philosophy in 3/5 words.
Kindness to yourself, others, planet.
You’re going on a road trip- which three people do you bring with you, dead or alive?
(laughs) Right now that is an easy one because I would definitely take my little girl, my husband and my mom who takes care of the little girl so we can go adventuring. That looks very similar to our Find Anywhere trip.
© Craig Kolesky
How has using our gear changed your view on adventuring?
I’ve done quite a bit of camping and of course a lot of adventuring. What I really love about using the Front Runner gear is that everything doesn’t always have to be “super makeshift”, or always scrambling to make a plan. It doesn’t have to be like that. With the Front Runner gear it feels like “oh my gosh they’ve thought of that, there’s a solution for that, and I don’t have to struggle through this”. That’s definitely something that’s changed for me.
What piece of Front Runner gear did you enjoy using the most on your recent Find Anywhere trip?
Everything was kind of amazing, but because it was quite chilly, I really loved the easy-to-use stowaway Box Braai which served as our fireplace. I also really love the functionality of the Wolf Pack Pro’s, but what most people don’t know is that they also work as a baby bath so it’s definitely a toss-up between the Box Braai and the Wolf Pack Pro’s.
© Craig Kolesky
Best thing you’ve seen while adventuring?
As most of my adventures are at sea and underwater, I would say one of my best things I’ve seen while adventuring is a super pod of Sperm Whales and swimming with them while resting at the surface.
What’s one daily thing we can do to help our oceans?
There are a lot of threats to our oceans today, and the two I think that we can have absolute impact on, that have been less spoken about, would be what you eat from the sea- by making sure that you aren’t eating fish that’s unsustainable and really getting educated on what you can eat from the sea. It’s a complicated question as it has to do with how the fish is caught, where it’s from, how it’s family is doing. There’s a lot that goes on when you’re trying to eat sustainable, it’s not just about trusting a supermarket or restaurant that says that their seafood is sustainable, you need to be educated. The second one is understanding climate changes effects on the ocean and how our actions affect climate change.
You’ve turned your passion for ocean conservation into a career, any pitfalls?
I think that anyone who works in their true field of passion is open to challenges, because it really matters. It feels like everything I am doing really matters so there is no “I can’t wait to switch off”, because there’s no switching off. So, I would say one of the main pitfalls of working in conservation full time is complete and utter burnout and fatigue. I counteract that by getting in the water as much as I can, but overall I think it’s really rewarding to work in a field where you feel you can make a difference and where you feel a purpose.
Tell us about your organization “I Am Water”.
"I Am Water" is an organization with its roots in Cape Town. We work with sharing ocean experiences with youth from underserved coastal communities. In South Africa we have such a dire disconnect with South African people and the ocean. Much of that is a throwback from our horrific division of who had access to nature, and who had access to the beaches through the years of our past political regime, and today this persists. I think that it’s really important to create more access and equity in ocean spaces, and "I Am Water" aims to do that through collaborating with schools and working with sharing ocean experiences with as many students as we possibly can.
© Craig Kolesky
What started this love of the water?
I grew up on a horse farm in the middle of nowhere and the ocean was very, very far away. I loved playing in the rivers and dams, and I think my early love of water, which became love for the ocean, is really a very deep connection with nature and with wilderness and with animals. I think I relate to myself more as an animal than a human. I mean we are also animals, but we forget, so for me it started with a deep connection and love for wilderness… and our ocean is the wildest place.
Any advice for road trip newbs?
I feel like in some way I am still a road trip newb! I do think that, depending on the country you’re roadtripping in, a little bit of thorough research is never a bad idea. Reaching out to one’s network and seeing if people know other people along the way makes for such beautiful connections.
Other than the super boring technical things like making sure you have serviced your car and checked your oil and filters and brake pads.
I’m a big fan of healthy snacks and if one doesn’t think that through before you go you don’t always find those along the way!
Who’s on your road trip playlist currently?
My playlist is continually shifting, and I guess for someone that spends most time under water and part of my time being a mom I don’t feel like I am very up to date with music! I do have some Billie Eilish, some Traveller. I also have a whole playlist that is Macklemore because sometimes you just need to dance in the car! There’s also a very long playlist that is instrumental that we play when baby is sleeping which is super helpful. There’s a beautiful dreampop band from Sweden called ViVii who are old friends of mine when I studied in Sweden and whenever I listen to their music it makes me happy, so they are always on every playlist.
Who’s your role model?
I’ve been lucky to meet and work with some super inspiring people like Sylvia Earle who really is such a good friend and such an incredible voice for our ocean, but I feel like on a day to day my true role model are the women of Africa. This country is built on the shoulders of women, of strong women. And I don’t mean women in leadership, although I do rejoice every time I see women in leadership in Africa, but the women who get up every day and act as the backbone of their family, bring back money and food and often take care of several generations. For me, the women of this continent are an ongoing inspiration, an urge to do better and a role model.
© Craig Kolesky
Next on your trip list?
I am pretty keen to go up the West Coast to visit the flowers before they disappear, and who knows, one day I’ll make it far enough north to get to Namibia.
But definitely some trips that are baby travel friendly distance from Cape Town. I am very excited to explore more of our beautiful country. It’s such a gift actually, with less international travel, to brainstorm beautiful places within driving distance from home, and my gosh aren’t we spoilt, so I am very excited to pack up and go for the next adventure.
What’s your nickname?
I don’t have one. :)
© Craig Kolesky