Healing haven

Jennifer and Grace Morgan share a love for freediving

Jennifer and Grace Morgan, who share a love for freediving, can often be found training in the pool at LA Fitness in Melbourne.  SUE DEWERFF

Freediving helps build confidence to overcome life’s challenges

Morgan demonstrates a type of training used by freedivers

Morgan demonstrates a type of training used by freedivers to improve breath-hold abilities while swimming horizontally during practice for pool competition at Apollo Beach Racquet Club. JANE RENEAU

When reflecting on her journey to become a freediver, Jennifer Morgan compares it to being a tiny fish in a big pond. “My first glimpse of freediving was as a child when I watched scenes from movies like The Big Blue and The Abyss.

A self-described strong swimmer, and competitive springboard diver during high school, Morgan’s only exposure to water during much of her childhood was indoor pools and the frigid waters of the Great Lakes. 

After years of enduring endometriosis and ovarian cysts, which led to multiple miscarriages, Morgan gave birth to her daughter, Grace, in 2010. For the next three years, she endured multiple reproductive surgeries that led to early menopause in 2015.

“I kept telling myself ‘you’ve got this,’” the Melbourne resident said. “Though I have always been athletic and strived to be a healthy eater, I often felt like my youth had been stolen, and the layers of emotional pain I’d stacked up over the years left me bitter and depressed for a long time. Bouts of unprovoked inflammation and severe nerve pain due to severed ligaments from my hysterectomy added insult to injury and became a constant reminder of what I’d lost.” 


Freediving techniques demonstrated during training.

Grace demonstrates Dynamic training during a youth program meet at Alexander Springs. In April 2021, Grace became the youngest PADI certified neurological assessor. SABRINA ZABEL

It wasn’t until 2017, when she moved to Brevard, that she and her family began to enjoy time at the beach and her desire to dive underwater and spearfish grew more intense. In 2019, she took her first freediving course in St. Augustine, earning a Professional Association of Diving certification.

“My first time I really dove deep [about 20 meters], I felt almost a burning in my spine,” she recalled. “It seemed to happen multiple times and was painful, but suddenly it stopped. What I came to discover was that the atmospheric pressure changes were actually realign-ing my bones and relieving the pressure on my pelvis.

“For me, freediving is a way to experience the beauty of the ocean and freshwater springs without being hindered. It’s about connection within, and has helped me to overcome both physical and mental challenges.”

Preparing for a successful dive revolves around mindset, Morgan explained.

“Breathing and heart rate is mandatory, thus I have learned it involves being able to tune everything out, which for me has been a huge challenge given all that I have endured with my health and caring for my daughter,” she said.

“With each dive I have found greater awareness and clarity,” she said when describing the experience of her deepest effort earlier this year at 136 feet. “I now know what it is literally like to attempt to cry at these depths — as there are no tears due to the pressure and the surroundings of water, of course.”

In addition to an EMT-P certification she received while in the U.S. Navy in 1999, Morgan has numerous other certificates, including: Level 1-3 freediver, Level 1 instructor, emergency first responder instructor and oxygen administrator and instructor. Although she has used her credentials to teach, her focus now is to expand and share her connection to the sport.

In late 2021, Morgan founded Space Coast Freedivers [also known as 321FREEDIVE], a grassroots organization with a mission to collaborate with professional athletes and educators from the diving industry in Brevard. Its community now consists of more than 400 professional athletes, educators and equipment manufacturers internationally.

In January, she produced a live zoom event, Impact through Education, a five-day conference that brought freediving communities together to share their knowledge about the sport. The conference was the first of its kind in North America, with speakers from around the globe.“I was inspired by the knowledge and participation during this amazing event, one that I hope to continue hosting in the future.”

Morgan is on an ascent from deeper depths at Vortex Springs

Morgan is on an ascent from deeper depths at Vortex Springs. She plans to return to this area and other Florida springs and continue collaboration with families with autistic children. TRACE INGHAM



Grace enjoys the silence below the surface of the water

Grace, who enjoys the silence below the surface of the water, uses freediving as a way to help with her autism. TRACE INGHAM PHOTOS

When Morgan began freediving, her daughter, Grace, often joined her during training sessions. Now 12, Grace has become her mother’s constant inspiration to advocate for the sport of freediving.

“Two years ago this past April 9, Grace was diagnosed with autism,” Morgan said. “After learning more about her diagnosis, I came to realize that many of the basic fundamentals of freediving were excellent tools at managing anxiety and meltdowns and the concept of deep pressure stimulation that could be helpful to her.”

On April 17, 2021, Grace became the youngest PADI certified neurological assessor.

“This is something she is very proud of, and I know it has given her a better way to understand her own neurology,” Morgan said. 

Grace has since become a role model for other autistic children she has networked with. 

“I feel like I am constantly progressing and excited to continue to learn more about the sport and the benefits of how it can help me with my physical and mental health,” Grace explained. 

“Free diving has helped provide the tools to manage many of her challenges with autism, and Grace continues to be my inspiration and motivation for the networking I do,” Morgan said. 

Because of Grace’s accomplishments as a freediver, they have collaborated with many colleagues to offer opportunities for families with children impacted by autism. Morgan also is planning an autism outreach project to be held at multiple locations throughout the state.


Morgan says her mission is to share her love for the sport and continue to bring awareness to others about its positive physical and mental health benefits.

“I think freediving has not only been a way for me to connect with my daughter, but it has created both a physical and mental peace for me.” 

Eventually, Morgan wants to form a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization for 321FREEDIVE. She also plans to continue to collaborate with nonprofit organizations and equipment manufacturers in hopes to create more awareness about the sport on the Space Coast and beyond. 

“There is joy in seeing someone over-come challenges, and freediving has helped me find a greater sense of self and confidence.”

Visit www.321freedive.com for more information about 321FREEDIVE. 

Space Coast Freedivers will remain a Facebook group.

See the original article in print publication

Sue DeWerff Panzarino
Surfer & Shark Attack Survivor | surfersuzy7@ymail.com

Sue is an avid surfer, shark attack survivor and storyteller who loves to write about the wonderful people and great organizations on the Space Coast.