Does it matter what agency I choose? PADI, SSI, Molchonov, etc.
Yes and no. Overall you will get the basic information that you need with any agency that you choose. The most important factor is choosing an instructor. Your experience is dependent on the instructor that you do your course with. You should find out what their experience level is, how long they have been teaching, what their passions are, how in depth the courses will be, and what their focus is. Some schools/instructors focus more on depth and put an emphasis on deep diving, others, like mine, put more emphasis on relaxation and the meditative aspect of freediving. I find that creates the safest environment for people to learn about their bodies and progress without injury.
Certifying agencies that have requirements like PADI, Molchonovs, SSI, AIDA etc offer the most in terms of number of sessions, knowledge, and standards of teaching. My courses include in depth discussions on equalization, mental strategies, physiology about the mammalian dive response and Static Apnea and Dynamic training in the water.
The best thing to do when deciding where to take a freedive course is learn about the instructor (their reputation/experience) and find out what is included in their beginners course to make sure you get the most knowledge and in water experience for your money.
Why hold my breath when I can go down with a scuba tank?
The human body has incredible mechanisms to conserve energy when we hold our breath particularly when holding our breath while immersed in water. We have something called the mammalian dive response that triggers physiological adaptations to conserve oxygen and extend our breath holds. Diving on a breath hold is what we are naturally meant to do and once we start freediving the mammalian dive response gets stronger and diving feels more comfortable. There are many reasons freedivers prefer breath hold diving to scuba diving including the feeling of being more connected to marine life and nature, the freedom to dive anywhere with minimal equipment, and the convenience of long dive sessions without the concern of nitrogen build up or other risks associated with Scuba Diving. We also freedive to learn more about ourselves, our minds, and the amazing capabilities of the human body.
What if I try to take a breath underwater?
It is very, very unlikely that you would try to take a breath underwater even when you are having the urge to breathe. We have a nerve across our face called the Trigeminal nerve. This nerve can sense that water is touching the face and as a safety response the vocal folds will close if an attempt is made to breathe water while the face is immersed in water. Instead, the water will travel down the esophagus into the stomach instead of the trachea towards the lungs. The partial closing or seizing of the larynx is called a laryngo spasm and will prevent water from entering your lungs in the unlikely even that you would attempt to breathe in water.
What if I run out of oxygen?
In the beginner course, if you are breathing in the proper way (NOT hyperventilating) it would be impossible to run out of oxygen. The dive times are simply not long enough to get low on oxygen. After taking a full breath on a breath-hold it would take up to 4 minutes to get low on oxygen. Even if you have the mental willpower to stay on a dive for 4 minutes I will not allow you to in a beginner course. Dive times range from 30 seconds to 2 minutes and never exceed 2 minutes.
How will I know when to come up?
For the depths in the beginner course the decision to come up is dependent on your comfort level. Since running out of oxygen is impossible unless doing a long hold (which is not allowed in this course) the urge to breathe and voice in your head will be the reason you come up. When Freediving we build up CO2 as we hold our breath. Elevated levels of CO2 trigger a sensation and sometimes physical response (urge to breathe, diaphragmatic contractions) that can cause a diver to feel uncomfortable. It is only the body’s need to expel C02 giving the urge to breathe and it occurs even when you have PLENTY of oxygen. Similar to the feeling of hunger. Hunger pains occur to give your body the necessary information that at some point you need to eat. When you are hungry you are nowhere near starvation. When you begin experiencing urges to breathe it is the same. Your body is giving you information that at some point you need to expel C02 and breathe. It doesn’t have to be that moment but at some point. Think of those urges to breathe as the first notice. You can and will receive many, many more before you actually get low on oxygen. With a strong and calm mind these urges and sensations will not cause tension or an immediate reaction
Do I need to be in shape?
You need a basic ability to swim.
What if I have trouble equalizing my ears?
That is an extremely common problem and requires some practice of an equalization technique called the frenzel method. We discuss equalization in class but it can be beneficial to watch videos on the Frenzel method and practice before hand, though not necessary.
What can I do to prepare for the course?
There is nothing that you need to do to prepare for the course. During the theory lessons I go over everything you will need to know and in the water I am by your side for every single dive. Come with an open mind and an openness to experience something new. Don’t put pressure or expectations on yourself. The course is about relaxation and enjoying the ocean.