I recently came back from spending two weeks with Freedive HQ on Mactan,Cebu, the Philippines.
Freedive HQ is owned by Mike Wells, who basically shaped the SSI freediving programme along with Lotta Erikson, Linda Paganelli (from Freedive Dahab/ Freedive International) and a few other big names in the industry. There are currently 2 female instructors who are the deepest un-official record holders for their respective countries: China and Korea. Miya hails from Korea and is currently training to reach 58m+. Sura Dai, from China, has dived to 54m and no doubt she’ll be breaking that soon enough… when she takes a break from teaching all of us newbies!
I started off with some in-water training- call it a refresher if you like. I was worried that I’d forgotten loads during my 4 year hiatus. I did forget some things: I had to re-learn Frenzel and my freefall was a bit rubbish to begin with.On my first day I found myself thinking “This is crazy. What are you doing?” as I did my free immersion to 10m. Luckily it didn’t take long for my inner dolphin to wake up! FIM is so zen- I love hanging at the 15m bottom plate looking at the jellyfish pulsating by.
It was so good to be back in the water and I got back to 29m after 1 week. Now the hard work started.
Learning mouth fill, FRC and Frenzel is challenging. But I like challenges so it’s OK. The hardest thing with mouthfill/ Frenzel is to master glottis control and NOT swallow your air. We got loads on on-land exercises to do but underwater it’s just a case of trial and error until your body and mind get to the same understanding.
Our instructor, Sura Dai, is Chinese but her English is perfect. She is such an awesome instructor: funny, calm, patient. She also has an amazing collection of toys! We tested our lung capacity as well as our oxygen usage/ heart rate during dry apnea. I couldn’t believe that in 1:40 minutes I’d only used 21% of my body’s O2 and that my heart rate could drop to 39BPM so easily. That’s the mammalian dive reflex for you! One of the guys in my group managed to get down to 50% O2 before he inhaled. Amazing- he counted around 20 contractions. I didn’t push myself as hard as I should have because I don’t enjoy dry contractions. Underwater they feel like hiccups to me but on land I still struggle with them. This will be a major focus to the next part of my training.
I had 3 other guys in my group and we had such a great dynamic- we really motivated each other and you could see that in our results. I also witnessed a couple of LMCs and BOs for the first time ever- a lot less dramatic than I imagined them to be but it’s still weird to see someone go blank. Especially before you have to do a PB attempt. It’s SO important to control your thoughts, emotions and reactions and stay on the positive side of things. I saw that Robin Williams had died, but refused to let the idea swirl inside my head. Nothing bad was allowed to stay in there. Only good memories, good vibes and good tunes. It’s also vital for you to take the right amount of time for your breathe-up and increase your performance slowly. If you do 3 30m+ dives in a session you’re probably pushing yourself a bit too much, although it’s all up to the individual. What you don’t want is to keep on getting LMC/ BO and your body to get used to that as an acceptable response to breath-hold.
I ended up diving to 33.3m and if I had more time I think I would have gone deeper.
Sadly, we all have to go up to the surface, dry off and go home at some point. I surpassed my goal depth of 30m, completed SSI Level 3 and am ready to go back next year for a month for the next step. Meanwhile, I have to find a training pool in Pohang that will let me do dynamic and static…
Freediving in Korea:
There are clubs scattered across Korea, with my nearest one being in Daegu. Busan Scuba is currently gearing up to launch AFIA training (AFIA= Korea’s freediving association). Kevin Mitchell is based in Seoul and runs 1upfreediving. Most Koreans spearfish and don’t just purely freedive. Also, sea restrictions are a bit OTT here so expect most of your freediving to be pool based (great for pre-trip training). At the moment freediving is not hugely accessible to foreigners here but let’s see if I can change that a little bit before I leave! The terminology has mostly been borrowed from English so once you get a foot in the door the rest should come easy.
Freedive HQ’s blog
Sura’s blog (Chinese)
Miya’s blog (Korean)
One Breath (Korea)
Korea Freediving Team (Korea- NOT the national team or anything, that’s just their name)
Kevin Mitchell’s (AIDA instructor/ judge) blog on freediving in Korea
Annelie Pompe’s blog
***Featured image’s rights belong to Freedive HQ***