Freediving - Dean's Blue Hole
14 March 2013 | Dean's Blue Hole, Bahamas
After our stop at Dean's Blue Hole on Long Island, Roan and I continued to be excited by the thought of doing a free diving class. So after convincing Marta and Alec that they wouldn't have to go any deeper than they wanted to, and that learning some breathing and clearing techniques would be good for snorkeling at any depth we called up with Ren and Ashley from http://www.evolvefreediving.com and booked an intro class for the following week. So after a stop at Rum Cay with our friends from Joe's Sound, we headed to Clarencetown near the Blue Hole for a couple of nights so we could do our class.
We'd signed up for a one day intro course, but due to the cold weather, Ren and Ashley very kindly ended up spreading it over two days. We did lectures and breathing practice on the boat with them on Thursday morning, then went to the Blue Hole in the afternoon to do some intro dives down the line, then on Friday morning did some static apnea work (holding your breath on the surface with your face in the water) and Roan, Alec and I tried a couple more deeper dives.
The course was great. Lots of focus on safety - never freedive on your own - and on breathing techniques. It was great to get some real info in a structured environment. Ren and Ashley are both great freedivers and instructors - Ashley competes internationally and holds the world record for Womens no-fins at 63m (207ft) while Ren acts as a safety diver and cameraman. We'd highly recommend doing a course with them if you like snorkeling and would like to be safer and at that same time learn to stay down longer (whether or not you want to go deeper).
The focus on freediving safety was great. It was reassuring to learn that blackouts (the big risk with breathholding) were rare if your were careful with your breathing, and that having a partner makes a huge difference if one does occur because of what they called the rule of 9's - 90% of blackouts occur after surfacing , the next 9% occur within 5m of the surface, and 0.9% within 25m of the surface. This means that having a partner near you on the surface really can make a difference if the worst case occurs as they just need to hold your mouth & nose out of the water while you recover. And in case anyone worries too much - blackouts are very very rare if you follow the recommended breathing strategies and are not pushing yourself to the limits in a competition.
So how much did we improve? Despite some initial fears, everyone enjoyed the class and improved dramatically. By the end of the course I did a 3 1/2 min static breath hold and a 20m (66ft) dive down the line in the blue hole. Alec, Roan and Marta did 1 1/2 to 2 min breath holds. Roan made it to 15m (50ft) and Alec around 8m (25ft), and Marta dramatically improved her ability to clear her ears in going down to 5m. All excellent results. I'm sure we are all now safer (and better) snorkelers having done the course.