This is Her: Free Diver & Surfer Ali Dickie

February 20, 2018

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.”

Although Ralph Waldo Emerson originally penned this famous verse, Maui-based surfer and free diver Ali Dickie lives it each and every day.

“Maui is a gift, and you have to be ready to receive it,” says Ali, 26, who recently invited us along for a beach day, Hawaii-style. “I always have fins, diving masks, a surfboard, and a fresh supply of towels in the car.”

Growing up, Ali was never far from the sea, splitting her time between Hawaii’s Big Island and the coast of Southern California. Although she briefly moved inland to attend college in Colorado, there was always something missing among the Rockies. “I fell in love with the mountains, but as soon as I graduated, I knew I was going back to the beach,” she says.

Surfing has been a way of life for Ali since childhood, when she learned to ride waves alongside her sister. She still spends plenty of time on her board, but her latest love is free-diving, which she’s been learning alongside her boyfriend, photographer Ernie Black.

“Anyone can do it—it just takes practice,” says Ali of the ancient sport, which relies on slow-and-steady breathing techniques instead of scuba equipment. “You go a little deeper each time. It’s the most therapeutic thing in the world, especially during the winter months when the humpback whales come down from Alaska. We were diving the other day and heard whales singing, and then all of a sudden one swam right under us. Baby whales are very curious—every time it happens, I can’t believe it.”

If it sounds magical, well, that’s because it is. When the Hana Rainforest is in your backyard and the Pacific Ocean beckons on the doorstep, there’s no shortage of natural beauty. But, as Ali admits, not everyone is suited for rural island life.

“When people visit and expect to go out, I laugh—there’s no nightlife on Maui,” she says. “On the weekends, we go camping and drink beers around the fire—Maui is the kind of place where you go to bed early and wake up early. It’s a simple life, and it’s not for everyone, but I’m so grateful to call it mine.

Soon, however, Ali will be packing up her surfboard and diving gear and moving on from Maui—at least temporarily. Between dives, she and Ernie have been plotting a two-year trip around the world. “Our plan is to chase summer across the map—start in Australia, and see where we end up,” she says. “A part of me hopes it’s right back here.”