Freediving is a sport that anyone can do and it is highly recommended if you love the ocean! It’s the perfect escape from our noisy, busy world and it’s a world that not many get to experience. It is very therapeutic and can be used to better yourself, calm your mind, and focus on yourself with minimal distractions. The sport has become more widely recognized in the past few years and learning to freedive has become easier and easier. More schools and instructors are popping up all over the world making it accessible to everyone. Where can you start from though? Alli Penovich shows you the way.
If you are new to freediving, I recommend signing up for and taking an entry-level course first and foremost. Take the time to put in a little bit of research on courses available in your area, what curriculum is taught and reviews on instructors. Most spearfishing/freediving stores host courses. Swing by the shop and talk to someone in the store. They will be more than willing to give you the information you’re looking for. The freediving community is very tight-knit and helpful! Don’t be afraid to use social media as your friend and join freediving groups local to the area you’re interested in learning. There are plenty of groups out there and they all love sharing their passion for the sport and will absolutely lead you in the right direction!
Finding the right course for you comes down to a few factors: where are you located, how far do you want to progress, your learning style, and your instructor. First of all, location matters. I do recommend trying to find a course that is taught by a prevalent agency in your area just to make the continuing education process easier. If you are located on the East Coast of the United States, chances are most of the courses are PFI, Performance Freediving International, or FII, Freediving Instructors International. If you’re in Asia, the more popular courses are AIDA, SSI, etc. Most agencies recognize other agencies’ certifications. For example, a PFI freediver course will be equivalent to a FII Level 1 and will count as a prerequisite to further your education. All of these agencies are great in their own way, but I’m biased towards FII because I’m an instructor for that agency!
Don’t be afraid to travel to a destination to take a course! The very first course I took was held at Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island, Bahamas. I was very fortunate to experience this beautiful island, truly one of the most incredible bodies of water I have ever seen, and learn more about freediving. If you’re already planning a trip, especially to a tropical destination with clean, blue water, do a little digging and see if any instructors are located there. I wouldn’t be surprised if some were! It’ll make your vacation that much more memorable and you can spend the remainder of your time applying all that you learned in the course to real-life- meaning you’ll be a safer diver.
Take some time to research each of the agencies' requirements for different levels. Some agencies will allow you to enter right into an intermediate course, while others require you to take a beginner level before proceeding on no matter how experienced you are. In my opinion, starting with a beginner course even if you’ve been freediving every day for the past fifteen years is beneficial. There’s a considerable amount of information and safety that you’ll learn that you probably weren’t aware of. You’ll also get an inside look at what your body goes through on a freedive. Trust me, it’s really interesting! The majority of information may seem basic to you but it will help you immensely down the road as you progress.
Another thing to keep in mind while you’re researching a course is to make sure it’s a teaching format that fits your style of learning. Most classes are all in-person sessions- classroom, pool, and open water but some agencies have shifted towards an online learning portion. This is still a great option especially if you’re crunched for time. Typically in an e-learning style course, you get all the classroom information a week or so before your actual course date. You’re expected to go over the material and take quizzes on your own beforehand. Your instructor will be checking in with you and available for any questions you have leading up to the course to make sure you’re understanding the material. This type of learning is ideal to many but if you’re an in-person, hands-on type of student, I recommend making sure the course you’re taking is a full in-person experience. Just some food for thought before you sign up!
The last and maybe most important part of finding the right course is what the instructor is teaching it! I became an instructor for FII because I valued how rigorous their instructor course is, meaning they certify only the best. In turn, the courses are taught by very knowledgeable, very credible instructors. Once you narrow down a location and agency, don’t be afraid to reach out to fellow freedivers and ask about the experiences they’ve had with instructors! Chances are they will have an honest review for you and lead you to a great instructor.
Once you take that first course and become a certified freediver- meaning you have learned safety techniques and the golden rules of freediving, your world opens up that much more! You can join in on extra training sessions and boat trips which are very beneficial in growing your comfort in the water. If you’re planning on taking the next course, it’ll help keep you in diving shape and strengthen your technique so when that n date does come around, you’ll make the most out of it. It’ll also open up doors for you to go on fun diving trips! Like I mentioned earlier there is a huge freediving presence on social media. It is such a tight-knit community and someone is always down to go diving! Join a Facebook group, reach out to divers on Instagram, or swing by a local dive shop to see if anyone has trips or training planned. I’ve had plenty of people reach out to me to go dive and I’ve done the same! The inclusivity of the freediving community is what I love most about it. Wherever you are- city, state, or country, there are freedivers, you’d be surprised!
As far as gear goes, if you’re brand new to freediving, I recommend getting gear that is affordable and suits your needs. If this sport is something your friend, family member or partner dragged you into and you’re the more for support, there’s no need to go all out on gear. Get the basics- mask, fins, snorkel to start out with and rent the rest- weights, weight belt, and wetsuit or use a surf wetsuit as I did for years! You can always buy the gear after the course to make sure you like it first, although I’m sure you will. If you already love freediving and spend your time spearfishing or snorkeling, then absolutely invest some money in gear. Focus on gear that is right for you and the kind of diving you’re doing. If you’re a spearfisherman and tough on gear, go for plastic blades or fiberglass blades. If you are strictly into deep freediving, find a pair of carbon blades that are right for you. The price tag on carbon-fiber blades might be intimidating but I can promise you it is well worth it! The quality is definitely there and they will last you for years.
All in all, if you’re new to freediving, don’t be intimidated! Everyone started out exactly where you are and knows exactly what you’re going through. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out and absolutely take the leap to sign up for a course.