For quite some time I’ve been following various freediving accounts on Instagram and Facebook. Elegant divers gliding silently with endless grace through the deepblue. The feeling of silence is almost palpable in these images, and often they stay underwater for minutes with a single breath.
This idea to take up freediving myself came to me last November, when I snorkeled with wild dolphins for the first time. I stayed at the surface the entire time, too afraid to dive and watch them from a different angle and maybe snap some shots.
With my mind made up to change this, I set off to the Boot Show in Düsseldorf to get some inspiration. And as luck would have it I happened to meet Sittika and Stefan from Manta Diving Madeira while they were pitching their one-week course to a small group of prospective customers, accompanied by no other than book author and freediving world champion Nik Linder.
With zero expectations and mixed feelings I flew to Madeira in late June to begin the six-day class. "Give it a go and see what happens" was my attitude. Although I wasn’t afraid, I did have a great deal of respect. Scuba diving always gives me this massive sense of respect for nature and the ocean. Freediving even more so, as one lungful of air is all you get to take with you to the depths of the ocean...
Freediving starts with yoga, meditation, concentration and deep relaxation. Every morning before the crack of dawn we met for a session of Pranayama yoga on the roof of the "Galomar" hotel. With sleep still in our eyes, we prepared for a day full of freediving adventures with intense breathing and stretching exercises.
After a light breakfast (a full stomach and hard-to-digest food unfortunately isn’t conducive to successful freediving) we gathered for another yoga session at the beach and prepared for our underwater training.
During the first few days spent training in swimming pools, it became clear that I was able to overcome my own self-imposed boundaries and, with the right attitude and preparation, capable of far more than I had ever thought possible. So I started pushing my limits, holding my breath for 1:37 minutes, rocketing over 30m through the pool, and tried out different fin kick techniques, learned a lot about motion and dynamics and felt much more confident than at the beginning.
In the ocean I attempted to apply my acquired knowledge: deep diaphragmatic breathing and muscle relaxation before diving. However, this wasn’t as easy as it seemed. On one ocassion the swell was more prominent than expected and I felt nauseous; whenever that improved I wasn’t able to properly equalise or forgot to relax and hesitated a lot, had too much respect for the ocean, or thought I couldn’t hold my breath for more than 30 seconds. And so, as a beginner, you have to constantly try to stay calm and composed, relax body and mind and most importantly: stop thinking and let all of the things you’ve learned flow together.
I was very surprised at what I actually learned during that one week and was able to put into practice. I would have never dreamt that I could hold my breath for over one and a half minutes and dive over one and half lengths of the pool.
Freediving is a way of life that suits my daily routine down to the ground, and it helps immensely broaden my horizon. A lot of the Pranayama yoga exercises have become part of my daily rituals; I have noticed the positive effects in my sports regimen and I’m really glad I took the class.
And at the same time – while pleased by all of the positives – I hit a wall, as my mind wasn’t as at ease as I had wanted. Many of the freediving videos make it look so easy and effortless, but there is a whole lot more to it than simply diving (if you do it right, that is, which is my goal).
I completed the Basic Freediver and Pool Freediver courses, but had to quit the Freediver Level 1 mid-class, because I didn’t want to stress myself and because I noticed that I’d reached my limit sooner than expected and wanted to end the course on
a high note.
Back home I’ll look for a group to practice with, so as not to forget everything I learned. Next year I intend to visit Stefan and Sittika again and finished what I started: Freediver Level 1 and chilled freediving sessions in Manta Diving Madeira’s beautiful house reef.
Are you interested in learning how to freedive?
Madeira offers next-to-perfect conditions: clear blue water, mild temperatures the whole year round and instructors who really know what they’re doing: Stefan and Sittika from http://www.freedivingmadeira.com/
MantaDiving – Galo Resort Hotels
Rua Robert BadenPowell
P-9125 036 Canico De Baixo
00351 - 291 -935588