A while ago I did a review video on the Apneaman Freediving Buoy (Apneautic).
Below I have embedded the video for you to watch, but there is one subject in particular I still wanted to discuss here, since I did not discuss it in depth in the video: the rope. I will keep it short though, and let the video speak for itself.
There are different opinions on what properties the ideal freediving rope should have. Basically there are a couple of main separating criteria: (1) does it float or not; (2) is it 10mm or 12mm thick; and (3) does it stretch a little or the least amount possible.
(1) Whether the line floats or not mostly influences the handling after the dive. I think it is mainly a personal preference whether you find it more convenient to knot it back up and/or put it back into the buoy when it sinks down or comes to the surface after you have pulled up the bottom weight.
(2) The thickness of the line is also a matter of personal preference. I like the rope a bit thicker. It just feels nicer in the hand when grabbing it. That said: I’m a pretty big fellow.
(3) The elasticity (or possible percentage of elongation) of the rope is especially a factor in deep dives. Simply put: if the line is 100 meters long and has a possible 4% elongation that is a possible 4 meters extra you might unintentionally get. Of course the negative influence of this on your dive is very much dependant on the sort of bottom weight or anchoring you use and whether you have or have not taken this factor in consideration. Ideally, though, you have the least amount of elongation possible.
The first posts on this blog are about my first introduction to freediving and the (bumpy) road to completing the requirements for the level 1 certification. However, after you achieve one milestone, you need to aim for another. Logical… But before doing so, you better know you can meet the requirements. That much I learned from my first course…
A good one and a half year into my freediving practice I felt ready to start the level 2 course. But where?
I decided to do it somewhere near the sea and after a lot of Googling and YouTubin’, checking ticket and accommodation prices, I chose Atlantis Freediving on Tenerife.
Tenerife is a small island in the Atlantic Ocean, part of the canary islands, and under Spanish rule. It has multiple freediving schools. The most famous are Apnea Canarias, owned by Spanish record holder Miguel Lozano, and Atlantis Freediving, a school connected to the Freedive International franchise.
The choice between the two was based on a buddy’s advice. She had spent quite some time on Tenerife and had some experience with both schools. She liked the location of Atlantis Freediving better (sheltered) and even though she had not done an official course with them (just some fun dives) they had left a good impression. Also, they have a shipwreck very close to shore. Enough reasons for me 🙂
This was going to be my first course in the ocean. Sea even. And it definitely came with some nerves. The requirements for the SSI level 2 freediving certification are:
Academic (online course material, theorie classes and exam);
Dynamic swim of at least 55 meters;
Static breath hold, minimum of 2:30 minutes;
Safety/rescue at 15 meters;
Hands only ascent from 15 meters;
Mask off ascent from 15 meters;
Constant weight dive to 20 meters minimum.
None of these numbers intimidated me anymore, but when you ‘must’ to do them, it is a different story. One of performance under slight pressure.
The first things that will come to light under these kind of circumstances are your weakest points. Compare it to a tennis player and his weakest stroke. In tense situations that stroke will fail on him first, and will therefore be exploited first, as you have an opponent in tennis.
Luckily there is no opponent other than yourself in freediving. But then again: aren’t you always your own biggest opponent in doing/achieving anything? Clichés are clichés for a reason. Dealing with yourself; your abilities and your beliefs is therefore paramount in taking up any challenge, if you’d ask me…
As the avid reader of this blog knows: my weak point was equalization. And even though I have gotten a better understanding of it through my practice, ánd even though I’m (by now) definitely more proficient at it than the average person: there are multiple levels to equalization for freediving. True mastery of equalization is still a somewhat enigmatic feat.
One thing is for sure though: equalization and relaxation are linked together and influence each other in a big way. So… well…: my equalization worked sufficiently to meet the requirements, but it definitely was a negative factor for my relaxation (and the other way around probably).
Fortunately, the instructor at Atlantis Freediving, Pavol Ivanov, had been dealing with the same sort of problems at the start of his freediving journey. Which made him exactly the right person to do this course with. He immediately noticed how I tried to ‘help’ my frenzel with a valsalva like push as soon as it became more challenging in depth. This is an ineffective technique, disruptive to your focus and can cause problems with the trachea (hoarse throat) and lungs (possible squeeze).
With some pointers and a couple of exercises Pavol gave me (probably the most import things I learned this course), I slowly started to get a better feeling for it and unnecessary movements and sounds started to disappear. After the three days it ‘clicked’ even more. I feel Pavol left me with some tools to take the next steps in developing a potent and consistent frenzel equalization that can take me to at least 30 meters. Kudos Pavol!
So now you might still wonder: did you meet ALL requirements and get your level 2 certification?! I will no longer keep you guys in suspense: I DID meet all my level 2 requirements (even swam 75 meters dynamic) and am now officially an advanced freediver 🙂
Of course I got a hell of a lot of other pointers as well, concerning finning and freefall techniques, as well as possible improvements to make to my recovery breaths. Things that improved during the course and things to keep improving and paying attention to on my way to an eventual level 3 course. Basically it comes down to: keep finetuning every aspect of your freediving. That figures, if you want to become a master freediver, right? Yes. Yes, it does.
Below some footage to get a sense of freediving around Tabaiba:
If you have any questions or need some information, don’t hesitate and comment below or send me a personal message!
I think I’ve mentioned The Freedive Café before, but I can’t remember in which post. If I didn’t say it before: the podcasts are highly recommended (if not a must) for anyone who’s interested in or obsessed (;-)) with freediving.
The concept is pretty basic: every episode Donny Mac (McFarlane) interviews one of the bigger names in freediving and asks them about their history, their first contact with the sport, their progression, the obstacles they encountered, the lessons they learned, any plans they might have for the future, etcetera. To conclude the podcasts Donny usually asks them about their morning routine and a book recommendation.
Depending on the guest and their expertise, some podcasts will go deeper into training methods, the science behind freediving or the effective teaching and coaching of newbies to expert freedivers.
Below is a list some of my favourite episodes, but let me start off by saying that anyone new to The Freedive Café should – of course – begin with the first episode and let Donny (himself) explain what it’s all about.
The Italians What’s not to love about the Italians? Exactly: nothing! There is truly nothing not to enjoy about their accents, confidence, experience, slight hubris, brutal talent for storytelling and the fact that they are living freedive legends. Umberto Pelizzari is featured in episodes #20 and #63. Andrea Zuccari is featured in episode #51.
The freedive king of YouTube Almost everyone that has done any sort of search for freediving on YouTube knows who I’m talking about: Adam Stern (episodes #9 and #36). This hyperactive and funny Australian is not only a very popular online video maker (together with his partner), but a serious freediving athlete and organizer of the popular Deep Week events (usually hosted on Bali, Indonesia).
A Danish feel-good story Stig Pryds is a Danish freediver with an interesting back-story. Suffering from a condition known as psoriatic arthritis, he was condemned to retire earlier than he had planned and forced to use aids just to be able to walk. That all changed when he discovered that he could manage the condition through freediving, yoga and eating a plant-based diet. Stig is featured in episodes #4 and #65.
The expert freediving coach Down in Indonesia there is a place called Apnea Bali. You can go there to do the ordinary freediving courses or to get some serious high level coaching by Julia Mouce. We’re talking about elite freedivers that appreciate her guidance. Listening to this woman talk, you immediately realise this is an all around freediving badass. She has strong opinions backed by well thought-through arguments and she’s anything but a punishment to listen to. Julia is featured in episodes #28 and #52.
The oxygen advantage There are a couple of episodes that don’t feature freedivers. Episode #54 is one of those. Patrick McKeown might know little about freediving, he knows a lot about functional breathing and the science around this thing we do that’s so extremely critical to our (quality of) life. This episode is generally interesting, even to non-freedivers. And even though you might think: “what’s the use for freedivers, aren’t they explicitly in the business of breath-holding and not breathing?”; those two actions go hand-in-hand and are way more (performance-)interdependent than you might realise.
The World Champ The most impressive freedive perfomances in recent times have been achieved by Russian freediver Alexey Molchanov, son of the late Natalia Molchanova. This prodigy is the deepest self propelled human being on planet earth (vid below). This impressive fact is by itself reason enough to listen to his story and take on the sport. Alexey is featured in episode #35.
The old freedive Yoda His coaching style might not be as Zen-like and incoherent as Yoda’s, but Aharon Solomons is definitely a wise old man with many lessons to teach. Come to think of it: might be better to compare him to Rocky Balboa’s coach “Mighty” Mick. In two parts, episodes #15 and #16, Donny and Aharon discuss a whole lot of subjects: from equalization techniques and their origins, to residual volume dives, to mouthfill, to lung squeeze problems, to packing, to brain-waves and dreaming, and so forth.
I hope the (already) avid listeners of the podcast can agree with the above selection and if this is the first time you’re hearing (reading) about The Freedive Café podcasts: definitely give them go if you’re interested in freediving!