Ahmed Alshehhi, Jetman: The young Emirati is spreading his figurative wings to conquer the world of aerial extreme sports in the region and beyond.
How did you get into extreme sport and particularly your genre?
My passion led me to the world of extreme sports in 2007 when I started with watersports such as wake-boarding. Then I entered the world of skydiving through Skydive Dubai when I saw my friend taking part in this sport.
Do you do it for the adrenalin rush? What is your motivation?
Yes, especially when it is a new and challenging project.
Tell us about some of your memorable experiences being a jetman.
I was prepared to be the first Emirati jetman. I started in South Africa by training in the PPL flight program and moved to France to complete the training there on speed ride. Then we moved to Sweden for training on a special simulator, which is the only one in the world. In the following stage, I did this training program in the United States of America on the wingsuit and completed flight exercises and manoeuvres with the best trainers in the world. Then, I was in Switzerland jumping from mountains with a wingsuit. This point was very dangerous, which was terrifying at first because of several incidents that had occurred at the place.
What’s the big dream?
I seek to spread the culture of teaching the skills that I have acquired in training people who respect this sport. There are many people who seek to develop themselves incorrectly, which leads to accidents, and through my experience I would like to convey a message that people need to take a responsible approach to the sport. I give a lot of advice to people who want to develop themselves, and my dream is to see everyone around me learn the right way and practice sports in a professional manner.
Is it an area that still needs more educating about?
The area is currently considered one of the most developed and trusted, while if you look at the latest projects in jumping, most of them are here in Dubai and the most views are on global platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and others. It is worth mentioning that all this is with the grace of God and the support of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.
What does the future hold for Ahmed Alshehhi?
The future is going to show you a lot, stay tuned.
Mariam Shalan, Freediver: Egyptian Mariam Shalan started exploring the depths of the ocean just six years ago and she is now the “deepest Arab woman” in multiple disciplines of the sport.
How did you get into freediving?
It was by coincidence. I started scuba diving when I was 10. I’ve always loved the sea and its beautiful creatures. Freediving was never interesting to me as I never understood why I should hold my breath while diving when I was doing it perfectly fine with a tank. One day, I went on a scuba diving boat trip with my family and there was a freediving instructor on the same boat. He started to explaining what freediving is. I thought to myself, why not give it a try? Once I tried it, I knew that this was going to be the start of my freediving path. The day after, I started my first official course.
Do you do it for the adrenalin rush or the exploration aspect?
I like the exploration aspect of freediving. It’s to explore the sea, or to explore new things about myself. Because you are putting yourself completely out of your comfort zone, so that alone makes you learn on how to deal with different emotions or different mind sets that you have. Whether it is fear, excitement, happiness, being nervous, you will get to explore many emotions and deal with them.
Tell us about some memorable experiences…
I enjoy competing in freediving, so a lots of them have been in competitions. However, my most memorable moment was my first competition ever. It was then that I realised that our bodies can do anything, and it’s all about the control of the mental aspect. Every doubt in our mind pulls us back a step, and each time we believe in ourselves, we jump ten steps forward.
Were there any frightening moments?
A lot of people believe that to be a freediver, they have to be extremely physically fit. But that’s not the case at all. Freediving, beginner courses, don’t necessarily need a ton of work. It’s more for fun. Of course, if you begin your path as a freediving athlete you will face many ups and downs. But you shouldn’t put yourself in jeopardy. If that happens, it’s a mistake that we get to learn from.
What’s the big dream?
A couple of years back, the goal was to become a freediving instructor and athlete. Since that goal has been achieved, I’m seeking new things now in freediving. I’m hoping for more competitions this year and the years to come, and probably competing in one of the world championships.
Is it an area that has many women? Have you ever felt discriminated against?
When I first started in my hometown, there were only two other woman in the sport. That was something that shocked me because it is such a beautiful sport that everyone should be able to experience. And that actually was my motivation to become a freediving instructor. Now, the number of women freediving in my hometown is huge. But if we‘re talking worldwide, there were always woman excelling and breaking records as amazing freedivers.
Any closing remarks?
I hold the record at 62 metres depth, and I’m a multiple national record holder for Egypt and the continent of Africa, as well.