Beginner Freediving Course, What’s it Like?

“Breath” I heard Stephanie say loudly as I broke the surface. I had done my pre-breathing, used the arm and kicking techniques I just learned, and successfully completed by first dive in our beginner freediving course.

SSI Freediving Level 1

It was an exciting day in San Diego! We made it through the classroom portion of the SSI freediving level I class, and now it was time for pool training. We arrived at the pool to meet our course instructor, Michael of Dive California, who would teach us fundamentals and rescue techniques of freediving. Everyone had their new long freediving fins and wetsuits. The gear is different than scuba diving gear because this is a whole different style of diving.

Our Pool Training

Michael explained about how to attach our snorkel to our mask with a zip tie, and how to wear our weights down low on our hips. It is important to keep the weights low so they do not interfere with your breath holds. After we prepped our Mares gear, we all jumped into the pool and slipped into our fins.

Beginner Course Success – 3 Minute Breath-hold

Throughout the day, we learned different kicking techniques with and without fins and then had to practice each one while holding our breath and swimming the length of the pool. Michael taught us arm techniques to efficiently propel ourselves to the bottom. We got to practice the breathing techniques that we had done in the classroom the day before. The most interesting of which was the concept of the mammalian reflex. When you put your face into the cold water, your body automatically begins to slow the heart rate down. This allows us to conserve oxygen and hold our breath longer.

Breathing techniques learned in the beginner SSI course also helped us learn how to stay safe and avoid shallow water blackout. But even with all the training, it is still possible to black out while freediving. So it is important to learn buddy diving and rescue techniques. The concept of one up one down ensures that your dive buddy is on the surface watching you in case something goes wrong on your dive. The rescue techniques were not difficult but so important to know so everyone stays safe.

The day ended with our static breath-hold training. Each of us took a turn practicing holding our breath while standing in one spot at the side of the pool. All of us held our breath for 3 minutes!! We left the day feeling accomplished and ready for the next day of freediving class in the San Diego ocean.

Photos: Ashley Hauck Photography & Lesley Grey Alstrand.
Training: Scuba Schools International
Instruction: Michael Timm, Dive California
Freediving Gear: Mares
Computers: Suunto

SSI beginner freediving course pool.
Margo swimming in San Diego freediving pool.
Break during beginner SSI class.