What To Expect In Your First Freediving Course
By: Brian Shreve
You’ve spent some time researching to find the right course and instructor (check this article out for more info if you haven’t). You’ve watched a TON of videos on your favorite social platform. You’ve taken some time to prepare for your course (you haven’t? Check this article out!). But what can you really expect when you actually start your course?
While instructors may structure things a bit differently based on local logistics, tides, pool availability, etc., you can plan on learning a bit through self-study, some classroom time, pool time, and then open water sessions. Let’s look at each a bit more.
For most courses, you’ll receive either a textbook or an eLearning access code prior to the first meeting of the course. Spending some time before the course to familiarize yourself with the material will pay dividends in the long run. After all, your instructor provided it ahead of time for a reason – be sure to use it! By investing a bit of time learning about all the factors pertinent to learning to freedive, you and your instructor can spend the classroom time more productively. Many instructors prefer eLearning for this, as it allows you to also complete your exams ahead of time. This means time spent proctoring exams isn’t required and can be spent either teaching other topics, expanding on certain topics, or shifted into more pool time.
Many instructors will start the course with one or more classroom sessions, depending on logistics. Again, self-study prior to the classroom session(s) allows more time to be spent on important topics for the course, without wasting time.
You’ll typically start with some paperwork if that wasn’t done earlier. Then you’ll learn some basics about physics and physiology as they relate to freediving. You’ll discuss the importance of the buddy system. You’ll learn some more about equalization techniques. You’ll spend quite a bit of time on safety and more on breathing. You may spend some time going over equipment. Most instructors will also go over what to expect for pool and open water sessions.
But most instructors, just like you, don’t come to a freediving course to sit in a classroom. While a foundation in the concepts is needed, most of your learning is done in the pool and perfected in open water. This again is where eLearning can really help out by allowing an instructor to tailor their classroom sessions to the topics that their students struggled with and expand on the more important material.
The beginning freediver course should include an assessment of your ability to swim and tread water. Most instructors will start off with how to safety your buddy right away, that way you can develop good freediving practices early and practice all your skills with you and your buddy watching out for each other. You can also expect to cover the basics of how to use your snorkel properly for freediving, as well as how to swim with your fins. You will spend some time on proper breathing and developing your breath-hold through static (floating at the surface) and dynamic (swimming underwater) apnea, taking turns between safety and a performer.
Most of your time will be spent learning how to execute freedives and safety your buddy while they dive. These activities are typically broken down into smaller pieces at first, then progressively integrated to prepare you for dives in open water. You’ll learn how to breathe-up, check for appropriate weighting, as well as descent and ascent, equalizing, kicking, and recovery breathing techniques designed for efficient freediving. As for safety techniques, you’ll cover topics such as body position for safety, coaching recovery breathing, and how to handle simulated problems including near-blackout and blackout.
Instructors may conduct one or more pool sessions, depending on class size, pool availability, and more. But choosing a course that has more pool time built in will give you more chances to practice and will be a better value in the long run.
Open Water Sessions
Most courses will progress to open water after the pool sessions. Your instructor will conduct at least one open water session for the course, but may have more than that (or none if it is a pool only course). Most open water sessions will start with a weighting check at the surface. During the open water dives, you’ll do a series of warm-up dives. These give you a chance to practice your entry/descent techniques using free immersion (pulling yourself down a weighted line using your hands). You’ll focus on the fundamentals during these dives. On these warm-up dives, you’ll also typically performs skills such as checking for proper weighting and buoyancy at depth, and self-rescue skills like ascending with a flooded mask and removing the weight belt at depth and ascending. You’ll also practice recovery breathing after each dive, even when it’s an easy dive – train like you dive, dive like you train. While your buddy is diving, you’ll practice all the safety roles you learned in confined water and coach them through their recovery breathing. Depth usually progresses from a starting depth of 5m to 10m or so during this portion of the course.
After the free immersion dives, you’ll switch to constant weight dives, swimming to depth and back to the surface. Depth again progresses from a starting depth of 5m to as deep as 20m for most beginning freediver courses. In addition to the fundamentals, you’ll also start counting kick cycles, so you know how many and how strong of kicks are needed for you to reach a landmark depth such as 10m or 20m.
While your buddy is diving, you’ll practice being a safety for them, coaching them through their recover breathing. You’ll also practice responding to simulated problems.
And, most importantly, you’ll have fun!