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jenna solberg & finley murphy

Jenna Solberg & Finley Murphy, Free Divers

For these two, nothing is more humbling than diving deep beneath the ocean’s surface. They push themselves and each other to reach new depths and set new standards in their sport.

q & a

How did you two meet and get into diving?

J: Both of our dads are lifeguards and collectively we all cover four different generations. There’s always been this mentorship environment that goes with lifeguarding––the more years you do ocean sports, the more aware you become of how your environment moves. I started off being thrown in the water with boogie boarding, paddling, and then surfing––you kind of go through all these steps. Finley started free diving and spear fishing at a much earlier age than I did. She was five or six, so it’s amazing to watch all the different generations. It’s been so cool for me to watch her.

What’s your focus when you dive?

J: Rock running is really fun––you grab a giant rock on the bottom and then see how far you can run with it. The diving in the kelp is more like ‘let’s see all that we can see,’ but when we’re doing rock running, it’s testing how far I can actually push myself.

Do you get scared when you’re doing these sports?

J: The ocean brings a lot of unpredictability. Being in control is sometimes really hard, and when you’re doing it with other people, there’s a liability you have for each other, so you really have to look out for one another. Even if it’s really calm, scary things can happen.

What’s your favorite part about diving?

F: I love the sport. I love being underwater. The surface can be so choppy but once you’re underwater, it’s just so calm.

J: The ocean has a really unique gift that can give you solace when you’re looking to be alone, and can also make you feel part of something so much bigger. You become part of it. When life gets too busy and the world gets hectic, you can go and feel like you’re all by yourself.

Can you recall a moment in which you faced a roadblock in your progress but decided to push past it?

J: The unpredictability of the ocean can be scary and it’s very humbling when it becomes something that you cannot tackle. There are conditions in which you cannot achieve what you set out to do. But you have to remind yourself that ok, you were just in it. You were just amongst these giant waves, so you can go again and fail again. The more you put yourself in those situations, the less scary and daunting they become.

“The sports we’ve picked are largely male dominated. It’s so important to not care what anyone else thinks. You’re running with the boys, and Finley has always been able to stand on her own two feet and say ‘I am me.’ I try to do that, too.”

Do you always dive with other people or do you ever go alone?

F: If it’s just shallow water I can go by myself, but I feel more comfortable going with other people when its deeper than 10 feet.

J: It’s pretty much frowned upon going alone, because there’s so much risk when you’re pushing yourself and trying to become a better athlete.

jenna solberg and finley murphy

Do you know many people who participate in the sport?

F: I know a few people but wouldn’t consider it a very large sport.

J: Yea, we grew up in a very special community. But I definitely don’t know a lot of people who free dive. It’s something a lot of people dream of, but it’s also a truly special skill. If you didn’t grow up learning how to do it, it’s next to impossible. Being able to look into such a different part of the earth is so dreamy. So I hope it does grow. Because people can start to chip away, to achieve new depths. The technology of Go Pros and elite cameras being more readily available will also help the sport grow.

Does anything get in your way when you’re diving?

F: It can be spooky when we go out in the deeper water. It’s easy to let your mind wander when you can’t see the bottom.

J: You can totally mentally psych yourself out. The farther you go from the surface, the colder and darker it gets. So, it’s really tough mentally. Half of the sport is mental.

What’s one thing about your sport you want people to know?

F: How relaxing and calming it is. It’s just so nice to be under water and look around, even if it’s only for five minutes. It’s really nice.

J: The calmer and more relaxed you are, the deeper and longer you can stay down there. There’s this way of being when you’re diving that I would love for people to fully understand. When you’re moving more fluidly, you can actually achieve greater goals in diving. We just want to see all that we can see. For us, it’s about how many rock caves can you get through, how many kelp beds can you swim through, how much can you get out of each breath.

“We just want to see all that we can see. For us, it’s about how many rock caves can you get through, how many kelp beds can you swim through, how much can you get out of each breath.”

If you could pick one quality your sport has given you that you’re grateful for, what would it be?

J: It’s made me feel more humble.

F: I feel like I’ve gotten better at slowing things down and being patient.

What would you say to other women or girls who are interested in taking up your sport?

J: Find a friend and suffer together. You can go through so many highs and lows in one hour it’s unbelievable. You have to do it with someone for safety, but there’s that bonding element of everything you see and how far you go.

F: Go with a friend so you can share the experience, and just be cautious. I’d say just go for it. You never know if you really like it if you don’t try.

What do you admire most about each other?

J: We look like sisters. Everything Finley has grown up doing, I’ve done, but she does it 1,000 times better. She is going to crush everything. I admire how gung-ho she is in everything she does, always bringing 110%.

F: She’s really great at what she does. When I’m older I want to be as good of a paddler as she is. I want to be as comfortable in the ocean as she is. I still get tense if it’s deep, but she just goes for it. I want to be more like that.

Jenna, what’s one thing you’re really pushing Finley on?

I think she underestimates her own ability. I really want her to stop feeling apologetic for being behind and rather feel accomplished for running with people who are two or three times her age who have been doing it for two or three times as long. I just want her to feel accomplished versus feeling like she’s not good enough. Because she is.

And every time she says “sorry,” I make her do sprints.

Finley, is there anything that stand outs that you learned from Jenna that you’re grateful for?

Definitely––just pushing myself. Sometimes I’ll be super lazy and see Jenna doing extra sprints or extra whatever. And I’ll feel like, if she can do it, I can do it.

Beyond specific skills, what have you learned through your relationship with each other and with your sport that translates outside of the water?

J: Finley is very unapologetically herself and has been that way since she was two years old. I admire that and try to emulate that. The sports we’ve picked are largely male dominated. It’s so important to not care what anyone else thinks. You’re running with the boys, and Finley has always been able to stand on her own two feet and say ‘I am me.’ I try to do that, too.

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