I AM WATER has its beginnings in the ancient practice of freediving. 

Freediving is the sport of diving down underwater with only the breath in your lungs. Freediving has been evolving as long as people have been swimming underwater. From very early on, humans have used their diving ability to live off the oceans and play under the waves.


Modern competitive freedivers push the limits of the human body to dive deeper into the oceans, and many studies have been done on freedivers to better understand the effects of pressure and hypoxia on the human body.

Over the years scientists have found the human body has a memory of being in the water. The body undergoes metabolic changes, blood shifts, and some unimportant organs in the body begin to function in very important ways - this is known as the Mammalian Dive Response.

The fact every human body has these built-in diving systems made South African freediver, Hanli Prinsloo, stop and think.... 

Why are our bodies so well adapted to dive before we even put our face in the water? It seems like our physiology wants us to spend time underwater... 

Hanli had already broken all of South Africa’s freediving records but diving up and down a rope to various depths was losing its appeal. The ocean had so much more to offer and she didn’t need another record to know her body was capable of diving down 65 meters.

That’s when Hanli began using her body’s diving abilities to experience and interact with the whales, dolphins, seals, sharks, and other creatures that live in the ocean wilderness.


Hanli’s encounters deepened her desire to take care of the oceans, and she wanted others to experience this connection as well.

This drive led to the founding of I AM WATER as a South African Non-Profit Organization in 2010. She immediately began focusing her work on youth in her hometown of Cape Town, South Africa and the more northern coastal city of Durban.

Her first group of Cape Town kids came from the township of Masiphumelele. Although these kids began having very little ocean experience and knowing very little about the ocean, they finished their time with Hanli in love with the ocean and the seals and the kelp forest.

From this point forward the I AM WATER movement began to spread.