Yasemin Dalkilic was born in Ankara, Turkey, on May 2nd, 1979. She fell in love with the sea at a very early age, watching old Jacques Cousteau documentaries on TV. Living in a landlocked city, she could only indulge her passion during the summer holidays, which she would spend by the seaside, diving from sunrise to sunset. By age 14, she was a member of the senior national Monofin swimming team, where she set several Turkish records. At 16, she had established herself as the best freediver in her country, diving deeper than any man or woman of any age, and set her sights in the international arena. All the while, she continued to excel in her other passions, music, where she learned to play several instruments, and mathematics, where she was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Middle East Technical University in 1996. Two years later, during the First Freediving World Cup in Sardinia, Italy, in 1998, she placed first among women, putting the freediving world on notice that she was ready for her ascension to the top of the sport. Always one to match her passion with a strong analytical mindset, Yasemin realized that to take the next steps, she would have to complement her natural talent with an effective training regime. To that end, she took the bold step of contacting Rudi Castineyra, acknowledged at that time as the world’s best freediving trainer. Rudi, as it happened, had just finished working with the current female World Champion in several categories, and was keen on taking a new disciple. They agreed on an accelerated training timetable, and by November of that same year, Yasemin had set her first World Record under Rudi’s guidance. The match of Rudi’s innovative training system and Yasemin’s immense natural talent and fluidity in the water kept on paying dividends, and from 1999 to 2006, Yasemin went on to set a total of 8 world Records. She was the first woman to ever set a World Record in the Unassisted Constant Ballast category, so difficult in fact that no female diver had even attempted a record before. She was also the first to reach the 100 meter mark in Limited Ballast category and the first to break the 120 meters in any category, a defining achievement that earned her the nickname “The World’s Deepest Woman”. Yasemin’s pioneering exploits helped push freediving into the widespread recognition it enjoys today, especially for women, paving the way not only for deeper depths but for lucrative sponsorships such as the ones she secured from international banks, watch companies, and even global automobile brands. She also forged the way for freediving to become a media friendly sport, with her 2000 and 2001 World Records being the first, and still only, Freediving records being broadcast Live over worldwide satellite services and seen anywhere from Eurosports and ESPN to BBC, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and even Good Morning America. The explosion in popularity freediving has enjoyed over the last decade has resulted in the arrival of new champions and Yasemin’s records have now been surpassed, but she is acknowledged as one of the driving forces that made that progress possible.
Personally, Yasemin and Rudi became a team out of the water too, and were married in 2003, being the proud parents of two beautiful daughters. Professionally, Yasemin became a music composer for documentaries, an underwater filmmaker, and a stuntwoman. She has continued to collaborate with Rudi on many underwater projects, including several documentary series where she starred, but has also diverged from the aquatic world and currently spends her time working as a computer programmer for a world class B2B firm. Yasemin is also a committed environmentalist, frequently lending her name and efforts to organizations like the WWF (World Wildlife Fund). She can be frequently found kayaking the rivers and springs in Northern Florida, spearfishing in the Gulf of Mexico, freediving wrecks in the Atlantic, sailing in the Mediterranean, skiing in Colorado, and reading Harry Potter books with her daughters. There are many more adventures the family is planning all over the world but diving still holds a special place. Says Yasemin: “Freediving is dear to my heart. It taught me to love and respect the sea and it gave me the life I have today. I am in awe of the new competitors today just as I was of the ones that came before me. I feel honored to have helped in some way to pave the way for them, and I hope they too use their passion to fight for the health of our oceans and the survival of our world. Long live the Blue Planet”