I first began freediving by snorkeling with a boyfriend as he spearfished. I borrowed one of his old masks and a snorkel and he bought me a pair of flippers that looked like something a duck might wear. In I went. I knew nothing about it but I learned to purge my snorkel and to relax and enjoy the freedom of being in the water. I really loved watching him hunt with a Hawaiian sling. We ate like kings.
I married the guy and we had three little spearfishers who learned to dive by following their dad and I around in the water. None of us were professionally trained, nor did I or my sons realize there were risks in the sport, as we had never heard of freediver blackout.
So when my oldest son Robert took his first class with Freediving Instructors International, and I took my class with Performance Freediving International, we were 20 year veterans of freediving and yet we knew next to nothing about the risks and absolutely nothing about safety. But all of that was about to change.
I learned there are inherent life-threatening risks in freediving and spearfishing that are often not on the radar screen of those new to the sport. In fact, everyone who engages in freediving and spearfishing who deviates from practicing safety guidelines is at risk. Studies of fatal and near-fatal aquatic breath-hold incidents reveal that no one is exempt. Freedivers of all ages, sex, and skill level have succumbed to the sport’s main threat: freediver blackout, also known as shallow water blackout.
I also learned that I had not even begun to tap into my potential as a freediver. I was certain I would embarrass myself in front of the mostly male, much younger group of spearfishermen, and perform far below the class. But with proper coaching by Mandy-Rae Krack and Craig Gentry I discovered I could hold my breath for 5 minutes – longer than anyone else in the class! It was really sweet to share this news with Robert and hear him say, “You are the coolest mom ever!”
Robert learned his lung capacity was the largest ever measured at FII for a person of his body mass. He achieved the deepest dive in his class. He really enjoyed training with Martin Stepanek.
There are two freedive training agencies DiveWise endorses: Performance Freediving International (PFI) and Freediving Instructors International (FII). We also endorse those agencies who operate under the umbrella of PFI and FII.
Training agencies offer a variety of classes designed to address the individual’s ability and what he or she seeks to achieve. Depending on which course you take, some of the things you may learn include:
Freediving Equipment – performing optimally with good equipment
Safety & Risk Management – learning to mitigate risks through safety practices
Proper Breathing – muscles involved, slowing your heart rate, proper exercises
Freedive Physiology – what happens to your body at depth
Aquatic Adaptations – dive reflexes, equalization, stressors and risks
The Physics – water pressure, buoyancy, partial pressure, and hydrodynamics
The Psychology – how to manage stress and anxiety
Training & Exercises – what freedive athletes need to know to be at their best
My son Robert and I really enjoyed the experience of taking an Intermediate freedive class, and came away with a wealth of knowledge that helped us both take our skills to the next level and learn how to do this safely.
Why not grab your favorite teenager and take a course with him or her? I promise you will learn a lot and that the experience will be unforgettable. And when you discover how to dive safely, you can influence the dive safety practices of your family and friends. Live to Dive Another Day!