When people come to us to learn to scuba dive, one of the most common responses to the question “what made you decide to learn to dive?” is often “I’ve done a bit of freediving or snorkeling and love the sea”. It was the same for me. I remember my first time freediving off the Wairarapa south coast, in the middle of winter in a cheap 2mm wetsuit, staying in for as long as I could handle the cold, long enough to collect a few paua and catch a glimpse of a crayfish. After excitedly yelling to my buddy “there’s crayfish down here” I dived back down to collect my prize which by now was of course nowhere to be seen and a thorough search turned up nothing. By this time, the weight of the paua in my catchbag was starting to make it hard for me to stay on the surface. I needed a float. I headed for shore and climbed up the beach. I was shivering cold and exhausted but already I couldn’t wait for tomorrow when I could do it all again. I was hooked.
Ten years later, I am still just as excited to go diving and have made a career from passing on that passion. This year PADI have launched their Freediver programme. I jumped at the chance to go to their instructor training course, for PADI scuba instructors who had suitable freediving experience. The course consisted of an online theory section and a 3-day practical course taught by Adam Stern, one of the world’s top freedivers. Everyone on the course was an experienced freediver and still we learned tons. Yes, we learned to dive deeper and hold our breath longer which, when asked is what people will tell you they want to do. But what often gets overlooked is diving safer and easier, more relaxed and confident rather that pushing our bodies to their limits. Basically we learnt to dive better not just harder. And if it all goes wrong we learnt rescue techniques so that if “it” does hit the fan we have a better chance of bringing our buddies home safe.
I get to put my new found teaching skills to use with Dive Zone Whitianga’s PADI Freediver course. A couple of our tertiary student got to be the lucky guinea pigs for the first time and the Coromandel put on its finest conditions for us, blue skies and flat clear seas.