THE AFTERNOON WAS a bit more serious. To achieve the AIDA qualification we needed to dive to 16m vertical depth down a shotline.
Heading out to sea to get some more depth, Ian set up the buoy and line. Again we practised techniques, and discussed airspace-clearing – more of a factor now than in the shallows.
One of the tricks is to clear just before diving – so that you don’t add drag right at the start – by raising your arm to your face. Unlike in scuba-diving, when you can take your time working your way up and down to release a block, with freediving you have only so much time.
Ian says that the main reason people fail the course is that they can’t equalise fast enough to get to the 16m and back on one breath. Knowing that I tend to get a sinus squeeze in cold water, I opted to do the 16m test sooner rather than later, before the chill set in.
My first attempt saw a block at 6m, with pain above my left eye. Returning to the surface, I realised that I had reverted to my usual instincts at the first hurdle, and clearly had yet to train my brain. I can hold my breath for more than three minutes… I have time.
Another attempt saw me slow and stop at 6m, then push on through, only to get another block just a couple of metres from the shot.
Again, my instinct was to turn around, but the shot was close. Taking stock,
I decided to push slowly down. It was painful, but OK, and I completed the turn to come back up to the surface – mission accomplished, despite the chill.
Once everyone was finished, all we had left to do was to practise rescue techniques and have a bit of fun around one of the nearby reefs.
Unfortunately we did have one person who failed on the 16m trial, but Ian said that everyone was allowed another chance to come back and complete it for free.
Although the spearfishers had yet to catch a fish when they joined the course, they said they had learnt the diving techniques they needed, and everyone was unanimous that they had enjoyed the course.
All in all, the weekend was a lot of fun. Ian and Rich are great teachers and incredibly knowledgeable, and parts of the course were a genuine revelation.
Compared to some of the astonishing world records, our 2* training was only scratching the surface, but the advances we made still feel like a gateway into a new world.
I’ve always loved the smooth streamlined freedom of breath-hold diving, and I was left excited by the new possibilities.
AIDA (Association Internationale pour le Développement de l’Apnée) is freediving’s world governing body.
The AIDA scale goes from 1* up to 4* for recreational levels, and there are three levels of instructor certification, up to AIDA Instructor Trainer. Freediving is a growing sport in the UK, with local clubs in various cities around the UK.
The two-day Freedive UK 1*/2* course costs £300 and runs at weekends and on some midweek dates from May to September, freediveuk.com