Apnea Training- Overcoming the bodies survival instincts.
On July 9th I started a course that I have been wanting to do for a long time- Apnea Training, otherwise known as Freediving. For various reasons I have had a desire to do this, but mainly to see see how comfortable I can be in an alien environment without the aid of Scuba Tanks and other bulky gear. Campbell River is lucky to have its very own World Record holding Freediving Champs living right here. Performance Freediving International is run by Kirk and Mandy-Rae Krack out of their base in Campbell River, although most of the classes and competitions they run are all over the world, ususally in warmer water climates. I had the opportunity to be a part of a class they held here last week. The 4 day Intermediate Freediver level.
I didn’t fully know what to expect of the course but I had some goals for myself. One of the first things I learnt was that being underwater on a single breath is not such an alien thing as most people assume. We actually have what is called the Mammalian Diving Reflex, shared with all vertebrates. This adaption is a result of our water dwelling lifestyle in our evolutionary past. Not only do modern Marine mammals have this but us land lubber humans too. By learning and applying concepts of this we learnt the first steps to extending our time underwater.
Secondly the psychological factor was a big part of the game. This is where I really enjoyed the process. By learning to accept and tolerate discomfort, and even feelings of panic, and go past it, we were able to achieve things that most people would think is impossible.
The training provided by Performance Freediving International was unbelievable, both in its attention to detail and quality, but also safety. A big part of our classroom, pool, and open water time was spent on safety drills. Freediving performed properly with trained individuals, with a thorough knowledge of safety protocols, and within ones individual limits is very safe. I never once felt nervous about the immediate support of our instructor John and the other class participants.
The first day we spent in the classroom and ended with a pool session. In this time in the pool we all managed to do 3 min breath holds without too much trouble. I was excited for the next day as I had a feeling I would break my self imposed goal of a 4 minute breath hold. In my snorkeling and freediving experience in the past ( without any formal training) I had only managed to hold my breath for 1.5 minutes at most.
The next day after further training of the mind and body we headed back to the pool for and early dip. After 30 minutes of breathe-ups and shorter breath-holds I started my time for a maximum attempt. At three minutes I was feeling pretty good, having gone through some diaphram contractions and general discomfort. With gentle taps on my shoulder for timing and reassurance I started to come up to the edge to end my Static Apnea time. At 4 min and 45 secs I broke the surface and my goal of 4 min. What a feeling ( somewhat from the Hypoxic effects) to be able to do something that is so far from your normal limits.
The next days we spent training up in the classroom and in McIvor Lake learning the techniques of linediving. The first time in the lake we did what are called pull downs, Basically pulling oneself down a rope in 5, 10 and 15 meter increments in a controlled manner to get bouyancy and technique nailed down. On the last day we attempted to do depth dives to at least 30 meters (100ft). Two of the class participants managed this with considerable ease. I made repeated dives to 20 meters ( 66ft) but at that depth I had sinus and ear issues and was not able to equalize further. This is the thing that stops people at certailn depths, not the ability to hold breath. The compression of air in the lungs at several atmospheres of pressure make it increasingly difficult to draw air into your mouth and equalize the airspaces in your head ( sinus and middle ear) I still blew past my previous depth record with ease and just need to practice the techniques I learnt to equalize and I know I will get to my target depth soon.
Thank you so much Kirk, Mandy, and our instructor John Hullverson for an incredible 4 days of overcoming boundaries. John I stilll can’t believe you found your GoPro sitting on the bottom a day after losing it in 25 meters.
Facial immersion to kick in the Dive Reflex
Breathing up prior to staitic breath hold
Myself giving the OK signal after a static apnea session (Photo credit Jody Greaves)
Blackout rescue training
Breathe John Breathe
Getting into the zone prior to Static Apnea. (Photo credit Jody Greaves)
Dylan giving the OK signal at 4 min
Dylans personal best of 4 min 30 seconds
Fifteen Meter Pulldowns
GoPro lost on day 2, recovered in 25 meters on day 3.
Torrential rainstorm for 5 minutes
Practicing blackout rescue from 15 meters
Myself at fifteen meters (photo credit Kirk Krack)
Recovery breathing after a dive (photo credit Kirk Krack)
Dylan about to do his PB dive
Coming up from his pb dive of 30 meters (100Ft)
Recovery breathing, an essential post dive safety protocol
Some fun in the lake with scooters at the end of the course
Dang I can’t believe you did this. Damn amazing.
My son and I are about to do this class. We have been doing it untrained down to 60-65 feet on our own and have gotten to dive master level in scuba but freediving is our passion and it is awesome that it is yours too. This is truly what getting started in the field is all about and that is sharing! Thank you for sharing this wonderful post with us all!