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A weekend introduction to freediving

We’re drying out the gear after an excellent weekend at a Stage A Freediver course with Bjorn Nielsen of Apnea Australia, who teaches up and down the Queensland coast. Our goal was to have more time to shoot images while on a single breath.

The course began Saturday morning with some theory in the classroom, which proved very informative—even for a couple of scuba instructors like us. Topics included equipment, breathing, depth and pressure, and safety. The physiology sections I found particularly interesting; the top freedivers these days are re-writing the texts with their monitoring and training schedules, so my previous scuba and rebreather diving physiology knowledge proved quite rudimentary by comparison.

Learning freediving on the Sunshine Coast
Rob practicing dynamic apnea

Saturday afternoon was spent in the swimming pool. Bjorn taught us the correct breathing techniques to use before and after a breath hold. We applied these to a series of static apnea (floating face-down in the water) exercises, and surprised ourselves with our newbie times: approximately 2-mins for me and Liz, and an impressive 3-mins for Rob (the 3rd student on the course).

We then moved on to dynamic apnea (breath hold while swimming horizontally), finning techniques, hydrodynamic body position, and efficient duck diving. And, importantly, time was spent practicing buddy supervision and rescue.

Soon we were able to try our new skills with camera in hand. Whenever we could, between rescue drills and laps, we grabbed a few seconds to shoot the day. We even had a go with each other’s cameras—a rare event indeed.

Learning freediving on the Sunshine Coast
Dynamic apnea (Bjorn) with an active safety (Rob)

The course highlight came on Sunday: the open water training session at the outstanding outdoor classroom that is the ex-HMAS Brisbane—using the excellent services and facilities of Sunreef in Mooloolaba (Sunshine Coast). Here was the opportunity to practice vertical dives and equalization… and more safety procedures. On the wreck, we were treated to an eagle ray in need of a clean from the wrasses, along with inquisitive batfish, schools of fusiliers, and their predators—all this in excellent vis.

There was time to do a few breath-hold dives on the wreck with my camera. Every shot has room for improvement; it’s very different to filming on scuba! Even so, I’m posting the weekend’s photos and footage here in the hope that they prove helpful if you’re considering shooting images while freediving.

Learning freediving on the Sunshine Coast
Bjorn demonstrates an effective rescue technique
Learning freediving on the Sunshine Coast
Liz “rescues” Bjorn and brings him to the surface

Under Bjorn’s ever-watchful eye, we were very happy and surprised with our progress during the course—I managed a comfortable 20m (66′) dive at the Brisbane (without the camera), which I reckon is within the reach of most newbies in reasonably good health. I learned just enough to know I didn’t know much at all about freediving before, despite my active participation and interest in snorkelling and freediving my entire life.

Learning freediving on the Sunshine Coast
Bjorn’s tricks

I highly recommend this course, and everyone involved in its smooth, safe, and professional running. For experienced freedivers, the ex-HMAS Brisbane is a brilliant site: Sunreef has a mooring at mid-ship, leading down to the funnels at 5m, and onto the decks at 16m and 18m.

Have any of you done any freediving with the Gates HVX200 or a similar sized housing? And have any tips on balance, buoyancy, trim or whatever else? I’d love to hear your comments.


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11 years ago

This looks fantastic. I am very impressed.

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