The Freedive Café: my favourite episodes

If you don’t know, now you know!

There is a podcast for freedivers and it is called: The Freedive Café.

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 list:

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 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!

Freediving PB testing the Apneaman Buoy

Last monday I went out diving with a buddy to properly test out the Apneaman Freediving Buoy. Or maybe it’s brand name is Apneautic; hard to say, but it deserves a mention here anyway.

I got the Apneaman Freediving Buoy a couple of months ago. I ordered the complete set with the buoy, inner bladder, 40 meters of rope, weight strap, carabiners and bottom plate. Mainly because it is very competitively priced.

I believe Apneaman is Martin Zajac’s company. Martin Zajac is a freediving athlete, coach, trainer and instructor from the Czech Republic and is competing at the Vertical Blue competition this year (held this and next week). I would imagine he can properly test (and stands behind) the gear he sells.

Since there is not a lot to find about this freediving buoy on the internet I decided to make an unboxing and first real use video about it (see below). “Firs real use” in the sense that I did use it once or twice before for some shallow and exploration dives.

As you can see in the video, the first buoy that arrived had a problem with the velcro. The Apneaman staff assured me this was something that happened rarely, if ever. Their service and understanding was exceptional and they sent out a new buoy within 24 hours. Not to mention that after I sent the faulty one back, they fully reimbursed my shipping costs. So… big props to Martin and the guys at Apneaman!

Now, to the diving. I took the complete set out; buoy, bladder, rope, bottom plate, weight strap, the whole lot. It was also a good opportunity to learn something about rope handing (line handling?). And well… that sh*t ain’t all that easy, guys! But I’m getting better at it and I plan to do a video about it soon.

My buddy (a PADI master freediver) and I swam to the furthest end of the dive zone at the Vinkeveense Plassen. We let down the rope with 9kg (+/- 20lbs) of lead attached until it touched the bottom. After we got the rope tight and right, we started warmin up.

We did some free immersion dives first, then some constant weight dives. In between we tried a couple of FRC dives. I tried FRC for the first time and went to 9.6m on it. It’s a strange sensation and you get to free fall very early. Also, FRC helps practising the right equalization technique, but comes with some risks and needs to be done with care and preferably with someone who can guide you through it.

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I did the final constant weight dives with full lungs again and managed to reach the bottom plate! With which I also set a new personal best constant weight dive to 18.8 meters (61.6ft) of depth!

If you’ve been following this blog, you might wonder how I fared with equalizing at that depth. If you haven’t been following the blog: equalization didn’t come easy for me, as you might also be able to guess from the titles of some of my previous blog posts.

As with lots of acquired skills I believe it takes some time for the brain and body to realise what is expected of it. In that sense the old adagium “practice makes perfect” holds true for anything you want to become proficient at in life.

When you train regularly and your mind and body are getting used to float about deeper and deeper under the surface of any body of water (even if it’s green, dark and murky), you get more relaxed, you start to have more time to feel what is happening inside. This makes it possible to process new things and adapt.

Together with my buddy I figured out it I was sometimes slightly opening my glottis and transitioning back to valsalva equalization at a certain depth. So focusing on not doing that and sticking to the frenzel I got deeper and deeper more comfortably, until I reached the bottom plate.

I won’t lie to you and say that equalisation didn’t become more challenging near the end (as before it became more challenging near the previous “end”), but I didn’t feel any uncomfortable pressure or pain. And that’s how going a bit further every time and getting used to it, relaxing into it, is how we will creep a bit further away from the surface every time we practice. Slowly.