Tag Archives: freediving

Freediving update/feedback

I spent March in the Philippines improving my freediving and I’m happy to say that despite some sinus issues early on and a cold in somewhere in the middle, I am now certified as SSI Level 2 Instructor.

A few tips on preparing for your course:

– choose a center that makes time for your course, after all, you’re paying a lot of money to learn how to be a better freediver and teacher.

– you can PRE-pare for your course: start a training plan a month before your course that includes CO2 tables, diaphragm/ thoracic stretching and swim training (if you don’t have access to a pool-based freediving club). The “Apnea Tables” app is very useful, as is Natalia Molchanova’s blog about pool training and deconcentration. If your mouthfill or Frenzel are a bit sketchy, read up about the Frenzel-Fattah technique and practice some dry exercises. Try and get your hands on Federico Mana’s Equalization for Freediving (ISBN 9788887376913 – not available as an e-book on amazon unfortunately). Mana also has a YouTube channel with some dry exercises- amazing party tricks to amuse your friends with… If you’re practicing static, watch this video– not for the breathhold as such but for the great coaching- the guy says some good things about contractions that are worth remembering in your own sessions.

– acquire spares and learn how to change your D4i battery before you go away. Always carry a spare and the correct tools to open the computer. It’s pretty easy to do- and it will save you around 200USD- just make sure you test the seal in fresh water before you dive with it and look for bubbles (like you would with a camera housing).

Once you start your course it’s worth remembering that:

– freefall technique is as important as mouthfill & duckdiving. Identify your problem areas early and work on them separately- ask your instructor to dive down with you and critique your style if they’re not already doing this.

– everyone progresses at a different pace. If you compare yourself to others you may end up doing yourself a disservice. If you have an off day, forgive yourself and learn from the experience. Every session, even a shit one, has value.  Putting excessive pressure on yourself will only have a negative effect on your diving.

– be kind to yourself: take a day off every 5 days and do something totally removed from freediving. A rest day can make a huge difference in performance. Make sure that you keep your thoughts positive and try and keep the vibe light around the buoy. I had some days where I had great sessions despite getting only a few hours’ sleep. Why? Because I was very happy!

– put your computer away some times and just feel. Sometimes the alarms and obsession with depth really just get in the way of the pure enjoyment of being one with the ocean.

– get your head right. Freediving is as much mental as it is physical. One of the exercises people fear is the 5x20m. It’s good to start by doing a 5x15m and building on that. It’s OK to fail the first few times since your body gets stronger every time you practice. For me, the first 3 dives are easy and 4 is the hardest mentally with 5 being easier cos you know it’s the last one. Tips for 5×20: fin slowly, there’s no rush- you don’t have to fin from 10m upwards anyway so just chill. Take a few deep recovery breaths, a long exhale and start your  yogic breathing to slow your heart rate down. From 20s onwards you can start your last breaths- I only needed two to get to 20m and back. Remember, you may get contractions on the way down on #4 and 5 but it’s not because you’re low on O2, just high in CO2. You can do it, it just doesn’t feel that great 😉 When I got around to doing the full 5x20m I no longer felt any lactic in my legs so I’m glad I progessed the skill.

– train without the freediving school. Go to Moalboal, find the people who own their own buoys and ropes and go dive with them. For free. For fun. For the beauty of comraderie and your shared love of our oceans.

Additional links:

Handsfree EQ (BTV)

Freediving training February!

I’m in my final month in Korea and I’ve just started prep for the next step in my freediving journey. I’m aiming to become an instructor in March so I have to get back to my August form so that everything will be easy.

While I was stuck on a gondola ride at High 1, I came across this amazing video about Frenzel and equalization. I don’t really have an issue with Frenzel. My main problem is swallowing my air so I’d like to nip that annoying habit in the bud within the 1st few days of training in Cebu.

Since my two main goals for instructors will be to dive to 40m and achieve a static apnea time of 4:00 minutes, I decided to attend a very special templestay in Korea.  I needed a temple that puts a strong emphasis on meditation.

Golgulsa Temple is situated in Gyeongju, about 34km from Pohang.  “Golgulsa” literally means “Stone Buddha Temple” and it’s home to a 4m large Buddha carved into Mt. Hamwol, sometime between the 7th and 9th century.

Golgulsa is also famous for a form of martial art that was originally practised only by monks. Sunmudo means ““the way of doing meditative martial arts”.  It’s a unique combination of meditation, yoga and martial art. You can read more about the fascinating history of Sunmudo here.

I arrived on Saturday and had 3 meditation practices under the belt by the time I left the following day. I found it very helpful to have a refresher on what to focus on when meditating. Essentially, breathing and relaxation are intrinsically linked. It’s about acknowledging a distracting thought but letting it pass through as you return to breath. I also found moving meditation a really enjoyable activity. I’m hoping to use meditation and yoga not only for getting a good breathe-up but also to help me deal with contractions better. My training mantra is “contractions are your friend”. I hope that if I repeat this enough I’ll actually start believing it instead of being distracted by the discomfort.

Trying out Sunmudo is part of the templestay experience and it’s amazing how exercises that only use balance and bodyweight can cause such high lactic acid levels in your muscles! I thought I was relatively fit but I guess the training session targeted muscles that are not used too much in cycling and snowboarding. Two days later and I’m still stiff hahaha!

I met grand master Jeog Un Sunim during Sunday’s tea ceremony and I had a question for him (which has nothing to do with martial art, meditation or freediving). I noticed there was a statue of a Jindo dog next to a small, fat-bellied smiling Buddha on the temple grounds. When I asked him about it, he told me that he had a dog for 20 years and that she was like a daughter to him. After her death 5 years ago, he decided to honour her memory by erecting the statue on the temple grounds. She lives in through her daughter, who was happily snoring away in a corner while we were doing our 5AM meditation session.

There’s a lot we can learn from Buddhism and apply to freediving. Other than mediation and knowing the importance of breath and living mindfully (living in the now), it also teaches us not to attach to anything (other than the line of course. ALWAYS be attached to the line). Don’t attach to failure, don’t attach to nerves or negative feelings. Acknowledge that failure is part of the learning and growing process. Be aware of your body and your breath. Be aware of how your thoughts are impacting your training and performance. Be aware of where you tense up when you start stressing or when you feel discomfort (for me it’s my neck). Be grateful for your health and the beauty of the ocean.

By knowing yourself you can strive beyond your limits. This takes time, training and patience. I’d say the end result is worth it though 🙂

* You can find other useful articles about freediving here.

 

 

 

From the Seabed

Sometimes the most random encounters lead too the most interesting experiences. Not so long ago, I was cycling along and this Korean guy started talking to me. I complimented his English level and he thanked me. It was a slightly awkward moment when he told me that he was an English teacher at a local high school. Face palm. Turns out he’s an ex-colleague of a friend of mine and boy, is he an interesting character.

Why Seabed? He chose his name because he believes in living deeply, and that everything he says and does comes from the depth of his soul. Poetic. I like it.

Apart from being an English teacher, he is a keen cyclist and photographer. He also casually mentioned that he circumnavigated Korea on a bicycle. This was a while ago but he managed it in two weeks. He also owns a Moulton bicycle with a Brooks saddle. Now, shame on me but I didn’t even know that Moulton existed and it’s a British Brand! I thought the only fold-up bike made in Britain was the Brompton (whose headquarters are opposite SEGA in West London). Turns out Moulton’s quite popular in Korea, what with their own member’s group and Youtube videos. If you like Abba, you should watch this vid:

Seabed told me about Kustom your Bicycle, useful for pimping your ride as well all learning how to spell bike components in Hangeul.

He’s quite into photography so it was great riding with him.  We stopped at a few places along the way, he chatted up the old biddies so that we could get some character shots. It helps to speak Koran eh! Seabed showed me some of the photos he’s had published and told me about some noteworthy Korean photographers.

Jay Cheon Im (임 재 천) hails from Chuncheon and he collected a decade worth of photos of old-school Korea (small villages that capture the spirit old the Land of the Morning Calm). He published a book called “Korea Rediscovered” or “한국의재발”. Out of 1000 images he had to choose only 120. The book is available through Noonbit and retails at 40,000 won. I think that would make an awesome present for someone back home! He uses the Korean version of crowdfunder to help fund his projects and his contributors get limited edition prints in return for their help. Im is currently on Jeju island, where he is documenting the lives of the famous women freedivers, 해녀 . This project is also sponsored by his many followers. If you’re interested in Haenyeo, check out this documentary:

Two other photographers Seabed told me about are 이 갑철 (Gap Chul Lee) and 이 상일 (Sangil Yi). I reckon these webpages should keep you entertained for a while.

Finally, he also told me about a famous Korean poet who lives in Guryonpo, but that will have to wait until next time.

It took me a week to start catching up to the load of information Seabed dumped on me. It will take me at least 4 times as long to properly learn more about these subjects. I hope that you enjoy learning about them as much as I do.

 

Bouldering in Busan

I went bouldering yesterday for the first time ever- what a great experience! There is a strong relationship between freediving, yoga and climbing- I noticed this in Egypt when I did my AIDA 2 and 3* with Freedive Dahab. You can climb and freedive with these guys in the Sinai . I plan to get back into freediving later this year so it’s important for me to do as much prep as I can beforehand. I’ve wanted to give climbing a go since arriving in Korea last year but all my local queries about the subject lead to vague answers. I came across the big wall near the baseball stadium pretty early on, but how to use it as a foreigner remained a mystery to me.

Over the last few months the pieces have slowly started falling into place. Last year I went to KOTRI’s Reel Rock Film Festival in Daegu. I asked about climbing in Pohang but no one really seemed to know much about it. Lucky for me I was wearing a crazy pair of leggings. Fast forward a few months and I get a Facebook message from a Pohanger who recognised them on a night out at Tilt! He told me about local climbing walls and gyms and invited me to “Bouldering Appreciation Day”. I sort of forgot about it and was planning on surfing but I got a reminder FB message on Friday night. I was on the wrong end of pay day but I couldn’t NOT go. I woke up on Saturday morning with a healthy mix of apprehension and excitement- I was psyched to have the opportunity to try something new but pretty scared of cracking my head open before school on Monday 😉

Fear not! I wasn’t the only beginner and the community is extremely supportive of newbies. It was really nice to be in an environment where people guide you through the learning process without ego or impatience. I believe that a sport can only grow and survive if you nurture new talent and build confidence through proper training and gentle encouragement. It certainly made a refreshing change from some of the other sports I’ve tried in Korea, where you mostly learn by breaking rules no one told you about or having people shout at you.

Some sporting communities here make you question the teaching ability of teachers in Korea because there is so much negativity that comes out on the field and so little proper nurturing methods being employed. I’ve had a few girls confide in me about how their confidence is being knocked by being on the receiving end of egotistical, over-competitive coaching methods. A sport that makes you feel small and worthless is not worth your time, especially if it’s a team sport. I’m more of a solo sport person. I prefer competing against myself and using others as a guide and inspiration for improvement.

We went bouldering around Geumjeongsanseong Fortress in Busan- an area of incredible natural beauty and great vistas. I tried 2 routes on a beginner rock and managed to solve both “problems” (a climb is called a “problem” waiting for a solution). The second rock was more tricky because the lower part of the rock didn’t have much grip and required more arm strength than I currently possess. It’s also very important to wear the correct shoe size. I borrowed Korean size 250 (250cm) for the day. They were fine for the first rock, but the second one demanded shoes that fit super tight. I borrowed somesone’s 245s and got a bit higher with them.  Apparently the rule of thumb is to buy a pair 2 pairs smaller than your normal shoe size so you can truly tap the shoe’s spiderman potential. That means I needed size 235- I’m glad I have short toes!

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I was lucky enough to win a pair of size 235 climbing shoes at the after party-  I had to plank for it (my yoga teacher would be proud).

Pohang has 3 climbing walls that I know of: the first one is near the Baseball stadium, one near Pohang train station and one near Yeongdeok. If you want to know more about climbing in Pohang, go here.

I look forward to growing stronger!

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Butora shoes – 100% hemp