In an attempt to become more comfortable freedivers Sandy and I signed up for a freediving course with Enker Freediving. Understanding what factors affect the duration of our stay underwater and learning (how) to listen to the signals our body gives us during freediving, should enable us to extend our stay down below on one breath safely.
Nanja van den Broek, holder of quite a few Dutch national freediving records, founded Enker and is a highly qualified freediving instructor for both AIDA International as well as SSI (instructors get instructed by her as well). She also ended 8th in the World Championships so we figured to be fine with her as instructor.
After a few educational theory lessons and practical pool sessions we were up for the final day. A day in Dive4Life in Siegburg should help us finalize all the needed excercises as well as the theoretical exam. This would make us earn the Freediver level 1 grade within the SSI freediving structure.
From breathing-up (a technique to lower the hart beat as well as filling the lungs with enough air for freediving) to important techniques for the dive were tought. Proper equalization, streamlined swimming (read: limiting oxygen consumption) and even recovery and rescue operations were practised until perfect.
Especially the recovery and rescue operations were an important part of the course as Sandy and I intend to freedive together during our travels, which makes us fully dependent on each other. Knowing we both are capable of recognizing and managing dangerous situations (for example a shallow water black out) gives confidence and ensures safe and fun freediving.
We were lucky the weather outside was amazing since most Scubadivers opted for diving outside instead of in the Dive4Life tank. Still at times the bubbles were blocking any view, so be aware that Dive4Life might get really crowded during winter months! On the other end we did get a free bubble bath session :-).
During static training exercises in the pools in the Netherlands I surprised myself with reaching a breath hold of 4 minutes. Using visualisation (bordering meditation) made me manage the pressure of the urge to breathe longer than expected. In the Siegburg pool I was wondering how deep I could go and how hard it would be to reach the bottom on one breath. The pool in Siegburg has a max depth of 20 meters which seemed very deep as the deepest I had ever gone before was about 15m. This was back in the days in Fiji, without understanding what techniques I could use to extend my stay underwater without too big of risks.
At the end of the day I made it to 20 meters more easily than I thought possible. Now it itches for a bit to discover where my limit lies.. I felt being able to add at least 5 meters without issues.. Who knows..
We had a fun day with Nanja being an excellent instructor. She filled the needs for any participant in the group. Everybody passed the exam and we all celebrated with a nice dinner at the Cuban restaurant around the corner. Now Sandy and me are up for our next journey in January which will feature Costa Rica, Panama and the Baja Peninsula in Mexico!!