WHICH COURSE IS RIGHT FOR ME?
There are no prerequisite courses required for either the AIDA1 or the AIDA2 course.
However, to enroll in the AIDA2 you should be able to swim 300 meters (any style, any pace) comfortably and without stopping, and have an ability to kick comfortably with fins, and use a snorkel. The AIDA2 is the most comprehensive beginning freediving course we offer, with the steepest learning curve, and after this course you will be certified to freedive to 20m. Though it is a group lecture and format, we teach at each individual’s pace. Sometimes, there is more than enough time to complete all the skills within the course structure, but sometimes people need additional training. We offer additional training sessions at a cost to any students that require more time to become comfortable or learn techniques, and allow up to one year for requirements to be met. We can also offer dry and pool training methods to help people gain command over techniques.
The AIDA1 course is recommended to students who need to develop water comfort before enrolling in an AIDA2 course, e.g. how to use a snorkel comfortably at the surface, how to use fins to kick from one end of the pool to the other on the surface; or for people who are only interested in the pool disciplines. An AIDA1 certification will not certify you for any open water training with Oceanoid. The course is held in a pool and we slow down the pace and spend a lot of time going over basic techniques.
HOW LONG ARE THE COURSES?
It can be difficult to predict exact times and dates far in advance as we depend on pool schedules and the tides. The AIDA1 is held in one day (morning/afternoon) or two evenings. One online session, one pool session
The AIDA2 is usually three evenings (online), one day in the pool, and three days in the open water but depending on the size of the class, the configuration of the course may change.
WHERE DO YOU HOLD COURSES?
Theory and dry training/stretching/breath work is held online via GoogleMeet. Pool training will move around – depending on pool space and availability. Open Water training is at Ansell Point in West Vancouver, off the Sea to Sky Highway.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR MY FREEDIVING COURSE?
The biggest barrier to success in a freediving course is not – believe it or not – breath hold. In our experience people that do have roadblocks struggle mostly with comfort and with equalization (popping your ears).
For comfort, we recommend you visit a pool or beach near you, and practice snorkeling on the surface with fins. Please do not hold your breath in the water! We will go over the risks and proper protocol for doing that safely when you are in the course. But do practice finning using the whole of the legs, engaging your glutes and hip flexors to kick; practice also clearing your snorkel.
When you freedive, you will need to equalize the air in your middle ears and sinuses to the increasing hydrostatic pressure. If you are unable to equalize you will not be able to descend.
Most people are familiar with equalization either through scuba diving, or traveling in an airplane. But the most common technique used for either of those (the Valsalva technique) does not work for freediving. There are reasons that it does not work – freedivers have less air available to them than scuba divers, and they descend head down, rather than head up – but the bottom line is that the typical technique does not work.
Freedivers use the FRENZEL technique. With this technique, air is locked in the mouth so that it cannot escape down into the lungs, or out of the mouth, and then the air is compressed by the cheeks, jaw, tongue and throat. If everything is in the correct position, the only place for that air to go is into the nasal passage, then into eustachian tubes, middle ears, and sinuses. It sounds complicated but you can learn it.
The easiest way is to break down the steps:
Step 1 – Unlearn Valsalva. Practice equalizing (gently) with one hand on your belly. If you feel any movement at all in your belly or chest, you are using your abdominal muscles and diaphragm to equalize. This will not work when you are in a head down position.
Step 2 – Learn to control the epiglottis. The epiglottis is a flap in the throat that closes when you are swallowing and opens when you are breathing. Its purpose is to prevent food or water from entering the Larynx. Practice opening and closing the epiglottis with a wide open mouth. Inhale and exhale and try to stop the air from coming in and/or out without closing your mouth. Do you feel a “lock” at the back of your throat? That’s your epiglottis. Make sure you are not using your abdominal muscles or diaphragm at all. Keep your belly and chest completely relaxed. Remember, while we learn each step we are still unlearning the habit of using abdominal muscles or diaphragm to push.
Open your mouth wide. Take a big breath in and without closing your mouth, hold that breath for a few seconds, then release it. Are you getting the feel of your epiglottis?
Step 3 – Learn to control the soft palate. The Soft Palate is the soft tissue at the very back of the roof of the mouth. Run your finger along the inside of the top of your mouth from front to back – you should feel when the hard palate changes over to the soft palate.
A very easy way to get the “feel” of the soft palate is to open your mouth wide, then inhale only through your nose and exhale only through your mouth and vice versa without ever closing your mouth. You may hear some interesting sounds, and that’s ok.
Then practice it the other way around: inhale through the mouth and exhale through the nose – always with an open mouth. Practice this a few times. Do you feel your soft palate raising and lowering?
Now try inhaling, switching between your nose and your mouth on one inhale, and the same for one exhale.
Finally, see if you can take a full inhale through the mouth and exhale through the mouth AND the nose at the same time. This means your soft palate is in a neutral position – and that’s what we want!
Don’t worry if this seems confusing. It’s important to get the “feel” and understand how you are manipulating the soft palate. Take as much time as you need to get these first steps down – and remind yourself to relax the belly and chest completely. Use a hand on the belly to confirm everything is relaxed.
Step 4 – Learn to control the epiglottis and soft palate independently. Now take a full breath, pinch your nose and see if you can place the soft palate in a neutral position. You will know you have succeeded when the air in your mouth moves up into your nasal passage and you feel your nose inflate.
Step 5 – Compress the air in your mouth and drive it into the nasal passage. You will need to have air in your mouth between the top of your tongue and the roof of your mouth. We do this by putting the tongue in the same position it would be if you were saying the letter “T”. If you have a little bit of air in your mouth, and you plug your nose, close the epiglottis and place the soft palate in a neutral position, you should feel your ears equalize whenever you engage the “T” position. If the tongue is in the correct position you should be able to equalize with your mouth open.
Take your time with these steps and don’t move on to the next step until you have mastered the previous one. Learning the Frenzel technique takes time. And we learn it out of the water. If you wait until you are in the water, it may be too late. Practice often and carefully. When you pinch your nose, leave some space for air to escape so that if you get a strong equalization, you don’t damage your ears.
Still struggling? Sign up for our Equalization workshop with EQ tool.
1. WHAT EQUIPMENT DO I NEED? CAN I RENT?
Freediving equipment is different from standard scuba equipment in a lot of different ways. Mostly all the equipment is much more streamlined. On one breath of air, you want to make sure that you are moving as efficiently as possible. That said, you are more than welcome to use a scuba mask, snorkel, weight belt and weights, if you have them. Scuba fins work only if they are full footpocket – no heel straps please!
If you want to purchase gear visit a local shop and do not buy online. Fit and comfort are the no.1 priority in freediving and you simply cannot achieve that by buying online. It may seem that you will save money but from our years of experience we can tell you that you very likely will need to buy new items after the course, and it will end up costing more. Go to one of the local shops and try on gear, or rent gear for the course. You will have a much better understanding of what works for you after the course.
In the greater Vancouver area:
Sales and Rentals. Freediving and Spearfishing masks, snorkels, weight belts, suits, and fins and freediving accessories
Sales and Rentals – Freediving wetsuits, masks, snorkels, weight belts and weights, and fins
The one item we recommend you rent for your course, and NOT purchase, are fins. Until you have learned how the kicking techniques differ from swimming and scuba diving, and what fins would work best for your body, you run the risk of purchasing equipment that may not be appropriate for the kind of freediving you want to do, or for your personal technique. For example, we often have students show up on Day 1 with long, stiff, plastic freediving fins. In most situations, these fins don’t work and put undue stress on the ankles, calves and feet.
I’d much rather see a new freediver show up with shorter, softer fins and learn the technique correctly, and then we can recommend what style of fin would work for that freediver as an individual. We are experts in finning technique, equipment and streamline.
Let us help you!
What do I need?
You will need a full freediving wetsuit with hood, gloves and socks (not boots). Make sure your fins fit over the socks comfortably.
Why do freedivers use ”lube?”
Freediving wetsuits are made with unlined neoprene on the inside (often called open cell), unlined neoprene does not slide over skin. Without a lubricant, you will not be able to put the wetsuit on without damaging it significantly. Look for a hair conditioner without sulfates, parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, dyes, etc.
To mix your own lubricant mix ⅓ hair conditioner with ⅔ HOT water. You will need at least 750ml of lubricant to put your suit on the first time. The more lubricant, the easier the suit is to get on and the more comfortable it will be to wear. Over time you will adjust the mixture and the amount to suit your needs.
Can I use my scuba/surf/tri suit?
In the summer, this may work, but they generally drastically reduce the time you can spend in the water, and therefore, your time in the class. They simply are not warm enough. You may stay warm for a long time in the water surfing or swimming but remember, you are moving. In freediving we stay very still for long periods of time. Even the most experienced cold water surfers and swimmers get cold. You will need a freediving suit. You can rent Oceaner freediving suits from Ocean Quest Dive Centre for your course.
Which is the best freediving suit for me? Where can I buy?
Buying your first freediving suit can be overwhelming. There are a lot of options out there and the cost can vary widely.
These are the main points you should consider when planning to purchase a freediving suit:
The type of freediving you plan to pursue – competition, recreational, spearfishing, photography or a combination of 2 or more (exterior lining and strength, knee and chest pads) Do you plan to freedive locally? (Tropical vs. regular suit) Do you want to freedive year round or mostly in the summer and how cold do you get? (4mm or 6mm)
Fit – Fit is the most important part of a freediving suit, we think it is more important than the quality of the neoprene! So many people buy off the shelf or standard sized suits with the thought that a brand name or quality neoprene will keep them warmer. But if the fit isn’t there, and water can flow into areas, then no quality of neoprene will keep you warm. Constant water flow means constant flushing of cold water inside the suit.
The cost of a custom fitted suit is more expensive but in the long run, it is without a doubt worth it. In the end, warmth and comfort, especially in our local waters, matters most and is a safety concern. A suit that fits you properly keeps you warm for hours.
The quality of the Neoprene – A lot of people think neoprene is neoprene. Not so!
The quality of neoprene in suits varies greatly. The higher the quality, the denser the neoprene and the stretchier and warmer it is.
Research the suit that you think will work best for you.
Oceaner suits that we sell:
The REC45 suit – Highest quality Yamamoto 45 neoprene and manufacturing. It features a super durable, extra stretchy lycra exterior with an open cell interior. Available in 1.5mm (Green Camo, Grey Camo, Black), 3mm, 4.5mm, 6mm
Freedive Sport Suits – These suits are Yamamoto and very warm and durable. They do not have the high-end features of the Rec45 so they are a cheaper, but still excellent quality. FDS available in 3mm, 4.5mm, 6.5mm. SPT-OC available in 2mm, 3mm, 4.5mm, 6.5mm. SPT-SK available in 2mm, 3mm, 4.5mm.
CO45 Spearfishing suit – Yamamoto 45 with knee and chest pads. Available in 1.5mm (Green Camo, Grey Camo, Black), 3mm, 4.5mm, 6mm.
There are also options for Competition suits, Dynamic suits, Tropical suits, Springs suits etc. but for most local freediving, one of the three above suits are the best choice.
All of the above suits purchased through Oceanoid come in Standard or Custom sizing (Tropical Flatlock, FDS/SPT 3mm & 2mm are not available in custom tailoring). If you order custom, we do the measurements for you so that we get the fit right, the first time. There are colours and styles to choose from. The suits are manufactured in Burnaby, BC by people who have been making wetsuits for decades and they are delivered to you ready to go. No shipping, customs or currency exchange costs to calculate. And when you buy through us, you will get the best customer service and follow up. We’ll show you how to put the suit on and care for it safely including the annual end of season “check up”.
Neoprene Thickness – In our local waters, if you purchase a high quality Rec 45 suit, we recommend a 4mm suit as it is the most versatile option. It is more than enough for most Spring and Summer diving, will take you well into Fall, and you can simply put a vest overtop for winter diving.
The 6mm is appropriate for people who plan to spend hours and hours in the ocean, particularly in the winter. Of course you know your body best, if you are always cold, you may opt for a 6mm off the top.
3. MASKS & SNORKELS
Freediving Masks are low volume, have a soft, silicone skirt, and very important: clear lenses. No mirrored or tinted lenses please.
The most important considerations when buying a mask are fit and comfort.. Make sure you do not order online but rather, go into a shop and try one on. The mask should fit comfortably on your face, should not touch the forehead, and the nose pocket should allow room for air to exit the nostrils. Make sure you are looking at Freediving rather than Scuba masks – this is very important. To ensure the fit, look up at the ceiling and place the mask on your face. Do not inhale through the nose to pull the mask onto your face! Rather, have someone look for any spaces between the mask skirt and your face. A mask that works should fit well with the contours of your face and should not need to be inhaled to fit.
Some masks are tempered glass, some plastic. Both work well for freediving. If your mask is tempered glass make sure you talk to the shop about removing the surface layer that can fog up in the water.
Keep in mind that facial hair can cause leaks, as can laugh or smile grooves. If you have facial hair we recommend you shave it for the course.
Snorkels should be as simple as possible, a comfortable mouthpiece that is the correct size for your mouth, and a simple bore – no accordion or purge valves please. Look at the thickness and length of the bore and make sure it works for you. Snorkels can be clipped to the mask with a snorkel keeper or held in place by slipping them under the mask strap.
If you have your own scuba mask and snorkel, they are perfectly fine to use for the course (as long as the lenses are not tinted or mirrored).
The idea behind long fins is that they move more water and therefore increase the speed with which you move through the water. But if the fins are made of a rigid material, they may be too difficult to push through the water for your body size, leg strength, calf flexibility, or ankle strength. If that is the case your body will compensate by breaking technique, and this means the entire advantage of long fins is negated and then those long blades become a hindrance, will slow you down, and cause you pain or injury.
There are so many options in freediving fins – from materials, foot pockets, and along with that, cost. You will learn about these options in the course. We highly recommend you start with a pair of rental fins so we can see how you move. Our expertise is in technique and we can give you an idea of what kind of fins you should purchase after the course.
For a cheap, starter option, we often recommend a scuba tropical fin that isn’t too long but has full foot pockets.
Please do not take the course with open heel scuba fins. They will make it much more difficult to succeed. A full foot pocket is absolutely mandatory.
5. WEIGHT BELTS
This is the one item we suggest you purchase before taking a course. Scuba belts are nylon and tend to slide up and down the body when we invert, and this can be very annoying. We ALWAYS recommend a freediving weight belt (rubber or silicone) with either a standard or a Marseille buckle.
For weights, start with about 5% of your body weight in lead (based on a 5mm freedive wetsuit). We’ll adjust your weighting during the course and after that you should know exactly how much you’ll need. When purchasing lead we recommend you buy 1 lb weights and distribute them evenly around your belt.