“Every time I go diving in the ocean, I see something new, and it never gets dull,” says Environmental Science Student and Model, Astrid Holler when asked to describe her love affair with the ocean. “It’s a whole different world under the surface full of fascinating creatures. It’s such an amazing feeling being suspended and weightless in the water watching sea life.”
An international model that’s walked for luxury brands including Chanel, Fendi and Loewe, has featured countless editorials for both local and international editions of Vogue, Harper’s BAZAAR and W Magazine to name a few.
Today she combines her modelling career with her passion for the “ocean and environmental conservation” and “restoring, preserving, and protecting our natural environments and the native species that inhabit them.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALICE WESLEY-SMITH
When did you first discover free diving?
Astrid Holler: “I have always known about free diving, but I really didn’t consider getting involved until I read the book 'Deep' by James Nestor maybe 5 years ago. It’s about his journey discovering the world of free-diving. He was fascinated by it. As he’s discovering it, he’s meeting people and marine animals, sharing his experiences and unlocks his own abilities and finds out what he’s capable of. I’ve always known about free-diving, but I was scared to do it. After reading this book I wasn’t scared anymore. I knew I could do it.”
Tell us about your first experience. Was it exhilarating? Intimidating?
AH: “Not at all. My first real experience free diving was during a Stage A course. We were line diving in the middle of winter in Lilly Pilly which is a very murky estuary. When I dove down to 5 meters, I couldn’t see 1 meter in front of me, the visibility was so bad. Now I can dive as deep as 20 meters and hold my breath for 3 minutes and 30 seconds.”
What does it feel like?
“It feels like the ocean is hugging you. It’s just silent. You are floating. Weightless.”
What’s the most magical thing you’ve seen in the depths of the ocean?
AH: “The sardine run in Moalboal, Philippines. Diving down through a wall of fish is amazing, watching them swim together and shimmer in the sunlight.”
What made you decide to study Environmental Science?
AH: “I have always loved the natural environment and learning the science behind it has been so fulfilling and interesting. When I graduate, I would like to utilise the knowledge I’ve learned to create and support positive sustainable changes: whether that be through supporting sustainable fashion or working to protect and restore our natural ecosystems.”
Modelling has taken you all over the world and exposed you to some incredibly creative and powerful forces. What impact has this had on you as a person?
AH: “Through meeting new people around the world and learning from them has given me a new perspective on life. It has inspired me to pursue my own passions in environmental science and community-based restoration activities. More recently as my interests have become clear, I have met some amazing people who are just as passionate about conservation as I am. People on shoots, other models I work with – there are more and more people who share my passion for protecting the ocean. I also recently met Valerie Taylor. That was special. She’s an icon.”
Who is your biggest advocate?
AH: “My family and my partner. They always encourage me to step outside my comfort zone and pursue my passions.”
What is your hope for the future?
AH: “I have so much hope for our future. I hope that people get outdoors more, into nature to enjoy and appreciate this amazing planet we live on. So much of environmental conservation is intertwined with us, how we value it and what actions we take to protect it. So, get educated, spend more time outdoors, share your experiences and enjoy it.”