The acidic tang of vomit still lingered at the back of my throat as I tried to find a normal breathing rhythm. Closing my eyes, I held the buoy and tried to relax. I bobbed up and down, being gently pushed by the waves. As I took my final deep breathe, images flashed through my head. Happy memories, of the beliefs that motivated me and of love. I then plunged down and everything turned to blue.
In freediving terms, what I was doing is called the breathe up. This occurs when a freediver is preparing himself by performing regular rhythmic breathing. He then takes a few deep breathes before diving down. It is also essential that a freediver stays calm and relaxed throughout the dive. Thus, visualization of positive imagery can help a freediver do so. With regards to the vomit, I had spent close to 2 hours as I had difficulties equalizing. The initial feeling of hopelessness coupled with the waves around me made me nauseous and I puked in the middle of the session. However, my very patient instructor (Mari) and I pressed on and managed to find a solution to my equalization problem. I passed all requirements and am now SSI Level 1 Freediving Certified!
What is Freediving?
“Freediving is a form of underwater diving that relies on divers’ ability to hold their breath until resurfacing rather than on the use of breathing apparatus such as scuba gear.” (Wikipedia)
There is a long and rich history behind freediving. It was practiced in many ancient cultures around the world to gather food and resources, search for valuable treasure and in military campaigns. Now, freediving is mainly either a competitive or recreational activity. There are many forms of competitive freediving such as “Constant Weight Apnea”, “Dynamic Apnea with/without Fins” and “No Limits Apnea”. Most involve competing for the longest breath hold or reaching the deepest depth, with or without certain aids and equipment. Forms of recreational freediving on the other hand, includes spearfishing, underwater photography and snorkeling.
If you are someone who loves the ocean, marine life and experiencing new and exciting adventures, I believe freediving is something you should try. It opens up a whole new world for you to explore without the need for equipment (SCUBA diving) as all you need is a mask, snorkel and the ocean (and a buddy of course!). Imagine diving with whale sharks, dolphins and mantas; there are so many possibilities!
While I believe that everyone should try out new things, it is important for one to understand that freediving (like many other adventure or extreme activities) comes with certain risks. The best way to overcome this problem is to learn how to freedive with a certified instructor and not attempt it alone.
Apneista Freediving & Yoga
After diving in Amed, Bali (Read more about it here!), I headed down the road to Apneista Freediving & Yoga to start my two day SSI Level 1 Freediving course. Apneista Freediving is located in the small village of Jemeluk along the coastline of Amed. The shop has a cozy interior and comes furbished with a cafe serving a wide range of organic and healthy meals. The course cost me USD 200 and another USD 25 to apply for the SSI certification.
Each day started at 9am and ended about 4pm – 5pm. This is a sample schedule that I went through during my time there:
- Introduction to Freediving
- Theory Session
- 1st Open Water Freedive
- Theory Session
- Visualization & Breathwork
- Knowledge Review
- Stretching, Yoga & Visualization
- 2nd Open Water Freedive
- Practicing of Equalization (as I had trouble performing it)
- 3rd Open Water Freedive
- SSI Theory Exam (Short MCQ test)
These are some of the topics that Apneista Freediving goes through during the level 1 course during theory, practical and open water sessions (as taken from their website):
- Freediving Physics and Physiology of freediving
- Breathwork, manipulation of nervous system through the breath
- Hyperventilation and Hypoventilation, avoiding Shallow water blackout
- Equalisation for freedivers
- Finning technique, Constant weight fins
- Free immersion
- Buoyancy for freedivers
- Duckdiving, Mental preparation, pre dive ‘breathe up’ and recovery breaths
- Static breath holds dry
- Self rescue techniques
- Surface protocol and rescue
- Underwater rescue
- Dry training and techniques for maintaining interest over time
- Yoga routine for freedivers
My Freediving Experience
I came into the course with some freediving experience. I had reached a depth of 10 meters before, practiced finning and breathhold every other week at the pool but have never received any freediving professional instruction.
Theory & Practical:
While the theory topics may seem intimidating, the concepts are not too difficult to grasp. You will be given two textbooks to study. Lessons are held in a relaxed manner and the atmosphere is kept light which I felt was conducive to learning. Apneista’s freediving philosophy is influenced from meditation, yoga and the understanding of neuroplasticity. Thus, there is alot of focus on breathing, relaxation and maintaining a positive state of mind. The lessons are also far from being boring as you will be performing many practical skills including breathwork, stretching and visualization to prepare you for your time in the water. Just from the theory sessions and breathwork alone, I managed to increase my dry apnea (breathhold on land) from 2:30 to 3:40 by the second day!
Open Water Dives:
There were three open water dives in total; One on the first day and two on the second. The dive site was right behind Apneista. We would walk out to the back of the shop to the beach and just entered the water from there. After swimming out a few dozen meters, Mari would then set up the buoy and the lines. Each open water session took an average of 1 to 1.5 hours.
For each dive, we started off with a few warm-up dives along the line to about 5 meters. Mari would slowly increase the length of the line while giving us guidance or correcting certain mistakes we were making. Along the way, she also introduced and demonstrated new skills for us to perform. These include ascending with arms only, gliding up the line, finning, duck dives, rescue techniques and many more (as seen in the topic list above). To get SSI certified, there were certain requirements and techniques that had to be completed successfully in order to pass (depth of 10 – 20 meters).
Review Of Apneista Freediving & Yoga
Working in a dive shop myself, one of the most important standards that must be upheld in such a course or activity is safety. During my freedives, I never once felt unsafe under the watchful eyes of my instructor Mari. Neither did I feel any pressure to attempt anything that I felt uncomfortable doing.
The instructor to student ratio was also excellent. On the first day, it was Marie, another student (Mae) and myself. On the second day, it was mostly just Marie and myself. Apneista’s instructors are also top-notch and professional. They exemplify what they teach and are very positive and encouraging which helped me greatly during my freedive.
I would definitely recommend Apneista to anyone with an interest in freediving. The things I learnt and satisfaction I had completing the course was well worth the money spent. Now, I’m excited to see how much more I can improve my freediving. Next stop Dayang, Malaysia for a 5D5N dive trip!
Contact Apneista Freediving & Yoga at firstname.lastname@example.org.