Ashley Futral Chapman and Family

August 22, 2017

According to Ashley Futral Chapman '05, her husband convinced her to “take the plunge” long before she actually married him. Ashley, a world record holder in freediving, credits Frank “Ren” Chapman ’97 with introducing her to the extreme sport of submerging into deep water for as long as possible without the aid of oxygen tanks.

“I met my husband when I was relatively young and up for anything,” she says. “I really didn't know what I was getting myself into.”

Chapman’s first dive took place in North Carolina and she recalls it as a frustrating experience.“I was chasing a friend, trying to reach six meters (20 feet) of depth, but couldn't figure out how to equalize my ears!” A few years and freediving courses later, she was able to reach 58 meters and achieved her first record dive. She currently holds three world and 14 national records.

Chapman calls competitive pressure her “best friend,” but she is taking a break while expecting her second child. She has plenty to keep her busy, though.

Being the adventurer that she is, Chapman realized in 2006 that a “real” job was not in her long-term plans. That night, she and Ren made a five-year plan with the goal of living and traveling on a sailboat. They found that teaching freediving in conjunction with competing could provide the means to support their lifestyle and founded Evolve Freediving in 2009. They are both Performance Freediving International Intermediate-level instructors.

Chapman loves teaching the sport to people all over the world. “It's hard to convince them that they are capable of four-minute breath holds underwater until you take them through a class and make them prove it to themselves,” she says. “Trust me, we are capable of more than we realize!”

Reflecting on her time at UNCW, Chapman says she hadn’t yet learned that it's OK to take your time. “I thought only about a lucrative field for a career afterwards and this was against my nature. I encourage today’s students to keep their eyes and ears open and not be afraid to pounce at opportunities that may not seem in line with whatever life plan they have at the moment.”

In other words, just breathe.

-- Caroline Cropp