Suddenly it’s no longer about how long you can hold your breath for, it’s about how quickly and easily you can equalise, and the efficiency of your movement
This is the first thing I learnt, and something that will stay with me forever. Sitting there and holding your breath for ages doesn’t make you a diver. Calmness and efficiency of movement is everything, learning how not to waste energy in the first couple of metres of decent will make the rest of your dive so much more rewarding.
The second thing I learnt is the importance of good equalisation. The way I see it this is this is the fundamental difference between scuba diving and freediving (well apart from the obvious!). In scuba diving you are in control of your decent, and if you aren’t equalising properly you can slow down or stop and you have all the time in the world (relatively) to get your ears and sinuses right before carrying on. With freediving it is always a playoff between time, efficiency of descent, and the ability to equalise. Your descent is governed by efficiently, your equalisation should be secondary and this can prove quite difficult, especially for beginners.
Ideally you should do a very efficient duck-dive and descend straight (head first) down to a point of neutral buoyancy at a rate of about 1m per second and with as little effort as possible so as not to gobble up your valuable oxygen supply. If you can’t equalise comfortably at this rate and you need to stop, then you will start to float up, you will no longer be head down, and by the time you have equalised you will be almost back at the surface and in a hell of a mess trying to restart your dive.
Most of the people on my AIDA 2* course had experience at scuba diving, but also most of them, including me, experienced problems equalising efficiently. It strikes me that this is the factor that limits progression in freediving, not your breath holding ability.
The course, again with FreediveUK, took place in a quarry on Bodmin Moor; a nice place, but not the sea. Unfortunately it was too rough to do it in the sea that day.
A happy coincidence is that one of the instructors, and an extremely competent one, was an acquaintance of mine from a while ago and lives near to me, so now I have a local dive buddy too, as well as some other contacts from around the west country who might be up for a buddy dive sometime.
This was my first time going up and down a rope. This is the easy and safest way to practice dive techniques and something you see and read about in freediving all the time so this is the format for most freedive training from beginner to expert. You are clipped to the rope with a short leash so you can’t drift away into oblivion, and can’t go deeper than the weight at the end. You can pull yourself down by hand, ‘free immersion’ (FIM), or swim alongside it, which is then called ‘constant weight diving’ (CWT)
I also got a nose bleed. Not a punch-on-the nose type fountain, just a bit of snotty blood, and I didn’t even notice it until the instructor pointed it out. I hadn’t had a nose bleed for decades, so it was a bit of a surprise but my instructor was happy for me to continue as it was probably just a tiny ruptured blood vessel in my sinuses.
Anyway, I just about completed the course. I got down to 15m, did the buddying drills, and at the end of the day, despite being a bit dazed and tired, completed the paper questions.
Next step – lets go and look at fishes.