I explore: free diving

Have you ever tried free diving? In the middle of winter last year, I decided to learn. Why winter? Who knows, it seemed like as good a time as any. Don’t get me wrong, the Australian winter is not a European winter; it’s very mild by comparison but it’s still a crazy time to learn a new sport where you spend an extended time in the water.

The driver? An upcoming sailing trip to Tonga. I’m so excited about this trip and I really want to get more out of snorkelling and I figured free diving would help me dive deeper and longer.

While I was looking for  a wetsuit in Sydney, I met a free diving instructor and a week later signed up for the next beginner class (AIDA2). The inspiration for all this….

The course combined theoretical and practical elements of free diving with the practical exercises conducted in a local pool and the ocean. There was an strong emphasis on safety and on the final day there was an small exam.

When I got to the first class, I  felt completely awkward and out of place. The class and instructor were all men and I was the lone female and the oldest one of the group. All I could do was just hang in there. The instructor, Lucas Handley, was supportive and encouraging and had more faith in my abilities than I did. He also showed the most extraordinary patience and perseverance in teaching the class.

So, what did I learn?

Of course, the basics skills of free diving and a lot about myself. I had to push through some really uncomfortable mental places and just keep going. I learned that:

  • Holding your breath when your body is doing all it can to make you breath is a much more a mental rather than physical challenge.
  • When things get difficult I have a tendency to give up. It was Lucas encouraging me to repeat the exercises over and over that eventually had me achieve milestones I would have given up had I been left to my own devices. I need to find this belief in myself.
  • Perseverance, confidence and relaxation is key. Yoga and meditation helps.
  • When I did achieve a practice I was at my most relaxed. The you just appreciate the peace and beauty of being in the water.
  • A good instructor you trust with a focus of safety is a must. Things can happen and you need someone there with the experience and knowledge to support you
  • It was freezing in the water in winter. I had 2 wet suits on and was shivering cold most of the time. However even doing this in the winter was an experience and an achievement in itself.
  • I visited and dived in some really pretty places I had not been too before.
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Congwong Beach, La Perouse (15km from Sydney CBD)
  • Make sure you get fins that you can easily get on and, especially off, in the water. Mine weren’t and it was a pain. I used up more energy getting them off in the water when I needed to and something so simple (ridiculously) became a 2 person operation.
  • A good mask also makes life easier. If you don’t have to fight with your gear you can focus on enjoying freediving.
  • Like anything, regular practice helps.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! In warmer waters and with a more extended period of time to practise.

Have you free dived? Would you like to try?

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