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Learning to Freedive: 7 things to help you find the right course and Instructor
By: Tim Andrews
While the number of freediving instructors is growing rapidly, unless you live in a specific area such as the California coast, Florida, Egypt, Bali or Hawaii, chances are you will have to travel to take a course. That may be frustrating, but consider it a good reason to hit the pause button and be more selective about the course and instructor you choose.
Skilled freedivers make freediving appear graceful, effortless and simple. The reality, however, is that freediving is a complex combination of many individual movements and skills.
Much like learning to drive a car, being faced with all these relatively simple tasks simultaneously can be overwhelming, especially if you learned to drive with a manual transmission. Think of how much easier it was (or would have been) had someone calmly walked you through the steps, while ensuring your safety at the same time. It’s one thing to know you need to use your turn signal. But in the heat of the moment, that calm reminder is likely the difference between doing it or not doing it.
In many respects, learning to freedive is every bit as complicated as learning to drive a car. Of course, you’re also in water (likely the ocean), which increases the level of anxiety for many people. And then there’s the whole holding your breath thing….
So, what should you look for in a freediving course?
How much time do you get with an instructor?
More time equals more repetitions, more feedback, and more opportunity to absorb the information. Be wary of deceptive marketing. I’ve seen freediving courses sold as “three day courses,” but consist of only an hour of classroom time, 2-3 hours of a pool on the first day and 2-3 hours of open water on the second and third days. In contrast, most PFI instructors will conduct the PFI Freediver course over three days, but it will consist of 3-5 hours of classroom, approximately five hours of a pool, and two 3-hour ocean sessions. While both courses are three days, one is 7-10 hours and the other is 14-16.
What will the student to instructor ratio be?
If one course will have eight students per instructor, but another will only have four with the same course length, obviously the second one will have twice as many opportunities for repetitions and instructor feedback. While many students compare courses based on cost, these first two points can quickly and significantly change the value of the course.
Will the instructor provide video feedback?
It’s one thing to be told to make small adjustments to your body position, it’s quite another to be given the same feedback while seeing your dive on video.
Are there additional fees?
Less expensive course fees can appear more enticing until you realize that one is all-inclusive while the other has additional costs for books, a pool fee and a boat charter fee. These fees can add up quickly.
What about equipment?
This question can be especially important if you’re taking your course somewhere with cold water. Having to purchase that 7mm wetsuit is expensive if you decide cold-water diving isn’t for you. If equipment rental is included or at least available, it can make a big difference in your overall cost or experience.
What are their policies if you’re unable to complete the course?
Life happens and Murphy is almost certain to give you a dose of stuffy sinuses on just the wrong day. A lot of anxiety can be alleviated if you know you can complete the course at a later date with the instructor for a small session fee rather than paying the entire course fee again.
Is the instructor a good fit for you?
Spend some time talking with instructors. Did they seem knowledgeable and make you feel confident? Does their voice or personality grate on you? I like to think of freediving as “competitive relaxation” and if the instructor doesn’t put you at ease, they might not be the instructor for you. If this is going to influence your decision, make sure you spend time speaking with your potential instructor. Calling the instructor, asking how much their course costs and hanging up the phone probably won’t give you a fair impression of them. But having a series of questions based on this list will certainly give you something to discuss. Even better, if you have the opportunity, meet them in person and get to know them.
Learning to freedive requires self-awareness, relaxation, patience, and repetition. Asking these questions of a potential freediving course and/or instructor will help ensure you will be paying a fair price for the best opportunity to confidently develop your skills. Oh, and of course have some fun while you’re at it.
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