- Harry Chamas
A Beginner Course For People Serious About Learning To Freedive.
Updated: Mar 7, 2020
A little while ago, I gave up teaching courses and focused on individual coaching. The reason was not because I don't enjoy teaching beginners but because I no longer believed learning within the confines of a traditional course was the best way for someone to learn how to freedive.
As a coach I give personalised coaching withing a group, so it is important that all people within that group are comfortable on a buoy and have a basic level of freediving. For this reason alone, I have not offered beginners courses in the past. However Freedive Passion is growing, I now have a Freedive Passion instructor (Charly) helping me out full time- plus instructors who have completed my Advanced Instructor Training can carry the torch of Freedive Passion elsewhere and introduce new individuals to our beautiful sport.
Therefore I had to ask myself the question: "What is wrong with traditional courses, and how can I create a superior model".
I am writing this blog to share my insights on how we can improve beginner education in freediving, and of course to shamelessly promote my own beginner course. Following are the points in which traditional courses fail needlessly and I have improved upon.
1. The assumption of a level of comfort in the water which is not based on reality.
As freediving is becoming more and more mainstream, People from all walks of life, with varying levels of aquatic history are taking part in freediving courses. For some people, just wearing a mask is stressful. Time must be spent building comfort with a mask on their face, breathing through their mouth, breathing with a snorkel - all before entering the water. Once in the water, building confidence with floating effortlessly, bringing the airway out of the water, clearing the snorkel must be done before going more than waist deep.
My course is designed with the assumption of a fear of the water, if the diver is comfortable, then this stage will be completed quickly, if the diver is not comfortable, we can spend as long as is necessary building comfort at the pace of the individual. This may not seem complicated, but things become tricky when you add another student (or 3 other students) into the mix. If each student has different levels of comfort in the water, you must either hold some back, which will create boredom and frustration, or push the divers who are not comfortable well out of their comfort zone. Which brings me onto my next point.
2. Too many students in beginner courses.
The key to enjoying freediving is being able to relax in the water. As I alluded to in the previous point - each individual has their own level of comfort in the water, but when being taught as part of a group it becomes impossible to progress according to each individuals level of relaxation. My course is taught one-on-one, allowing the diver to progress as quickly or slowly as necessary.
3. Not enough time.
Most beginner courses are taught over 2 days. Why? As far as I can see there are 2 reasons:
1. The short time commitment will attract people who are only slightly interested in freediving (while letting down the people who really care about learning).
2. The shorter the course, the more courses you can teach, the more money you make.
My course has 5 diving days spread over 7 days, I accept that this will put off the majority of people who have not tried freediving yet, but the few that really care now have a option where every possible consideration is taken into account for them to learn and enjoy this incredible sport.
4. 2 dive sessions/very long dive session each day.
Another side effect of cramming courses into 2 days is having to do double sessions or combining 2 sessions into 1 dive session. Learning to freedive requires a huge amount of focus and concentration. In order to improve you must be fresh each time you enter the water and make the most of each dive. Doing too much each day can end up detrimental to progression in freediving.
It must also be mentioned that a huge % of beginners do not finish the course due to equalisation issues. Most of the time, these issues are caused by an injury on one of the first dives, then each subsequent dive further confounds the issue until it becomes impossible to equalise whether or not you are using correct equalisation technique. Double sessions make it impossible for your ears to heal and the injury will still be there the next day. Leaving the student under the impression that they cannot equalise when in fact - that is not the case.
My course consists of 1 dry session and 1 open water session per day. Meaning the diver will always be fresh and ready to absorb information.
5. Not enough focus on Equalisation.
The biggest challenge most beginners come across when learning to freedive is related to equalisation. Therefore everything possible must be done to ensure the student understands what they must do to equalise. Understanding how to equalise and how to relax are the most fundamental skills in freediving. Therefore that is the priority in the first section of my course, talking about anything else before this is a waste of time.
Most of what I teach in this beginner course is not ground breaking, the approach is what makes it special.
That being said - when it comes to equalisation and the Frenzel manoeuvre, this course leaves you with a deeper understanding than any other beginner or intermediate course out there. For this reason, I can highly recommend this course to people who have tried freediving before but could not manage to equalise.
6. Creating an environment where relaxation is not possible.
In a normal course, the requirements and time available to achieve them, is not conducive to teaching relaxation or even sensible training methods. For example, a students first time in the pool involves not only learning how to do dynamic, and to rescue black outs and LMC's but also they must perform a max static and a max dynamic. Leaving most people mentally scared when it comes to pool training (myself included).
In my course, each day starts with a series of breath holds, the holds get gradually longer each day, so the student should never feel overwhelmed and will experience the benefits of progressively overloading their training.
Likewise with depth diving, each stage builds upon the last, the student only moves on once the previous stage is mastered. Diving in a 1:1 environment with an empathetic instructor is the only way to ensure this.
7. Repetitions of requirements.
In a normal course the student must "demonstrate" each of the skills only once. Meaning out of 30 dives, only one of them has to be of a standard to pass. But what does this accomplish? The student has not mastered the skills they joined the course to realise, and the certification does not represent the level that the diver is at.
My course calls for multiple repetitions of requirements, ensuring students have learned what they want to learn and they are ready to progress from that point.
I have developed a course that creates an environment that allows people to experience new levels of relaxation and comfort in the water. Giving the individual the space to explore freediving according to their own personal level of comfort and ability to assimilate the information.
I did not make this course to try to take over the world of freediving education, only to create an alternative to traditional courses for people who are serious about learning to freedive and want to ensure that they have the best possible introduction to this beautiful sport.
Like everything I do, my intention is to offer the best quality possible, something that makes me proud - and that is exactly what this course is