Monday, February 26, 2024

Do I Need To Do a Freediving Course?


Do I Need To Do a Freediving Course?

This article is part 4 of 21 in the Beginners Guide to Freediving

Freediving is a very easy sport to get into. Many freedivers and spearfishers get into the sport by learning from friends and family, but this can carry serious risks if they’re not learning from a qualified instructor. Freediving appears to be relatively simple, but there is a lot of information on safety, physiology, and technique to learn and it is easy to get wrong.

We recommend that everyone who wants to freedive should do a recognized course with a qualified instructor from an insured agency. Despite the relative lack of equipment, there is much to learn when freediving, especially concerning safety, techniques, and being aware of the risks – getting it wrong can be fatal. A badly trained freediver risks suffering anything from ear, sinus, and lung barotraumas, to blacking out and subsequently drowning, not to mention decompression sickness.

Split shot of two free divers training in sea with buoy
Split shot of two freedivers training in sea with buoy

We’re not trying to scare you or dissuade you from giving our wonderful sport a go, though, but it’s crucial that you safely learn to freedive with a qualified and insured instructor.

Many highly-experienced freedivers and spearfishers who have not completed a course find that they are often doing things that are dangerous and inefficient. On completion of a course, they find that their ability skyrockets, as well as their confidence, knowing that they are finally doing things right – and safely.

On a freediving course you will learn many things:

  • Equipment – how to choose the right freediving equipment for your physique and ability
  • Depth and pressure – how physics affects your diving and your body under the water
  • Equalization – the different methods and how to overcome equalization issues
  • Breathing – how to breathe before and after a freedive
  • Buddying – how to buddy efficiently and effectively
  • Rescue skills – including self-rescue and rescuing a buddy
  • Stretching – the most effective stretches and relaxation techniques for freediving
  • Risk awareness – Managing and planning a dive session
  • Weather – including tides and currents
  • The underwater environment – what marine life to look out for and, equally, avoid
  • Pool training – static and dynamic
  • Open water training – free immersion and constant weight
  • Buoyancy control – improving hydrodynamics and efficiency

There are also specialist freediving courses where you can learn how to compete, be a competition safety diver, be a freediving judge, use a monofin, how to selectively fish, and take photos underwater among many other skills.

Your instructor will have taken several freediving courses themselves, culminating in an instructor course lasting at least seven days. They will have had to perform difficult rescues and dives and be experienced in dealing with all kinds of scenarios.

There is nothing like learning from an experienced instructor and they will be fully insured, representing a dive center or agency, and carry first aid and oxygen with them in the extremely unlikely event of an incident.

If you do not have any equalization issues and are confident in the water, it may seem easy for you to progress deeper without instruction after your first course. However, as you go deeper, there are additional risks associated with increased depth. Without taking a relevant course, it’s more likely you will suffer an accident, most commonly lung barotrauma.

Who Offers Courses

Most agencies offer three levels of courses, with a non-compulsory pool-based basic level. Some agencies are small and run solely by volunteers, while others are international businesses that employ people from all over the world. We’ve gathered a list of some of the most popular:

  • AIDA (Association Internationale D’Apnee)
    Founded in France in 1992, this is an international organization run by volunteers that set course standards, ratify world records, trains judges, and organize competitions.
    Founded in Italy in 1995 by world champion freediver Umberto Pelizarri and Renzo Mazzarri, a world champion spearfisher, Apnea Academy sets course standards.
  • Apnea Total
    Based in Koh Tao, Thailand, this training center has its own training system and due to its exotic location has certified a large number of freedivers.
  • CMAS
    CMAS is an international organization with branches in countries throughout the world. They set course standards and ratify world records.
  • Freediving Instructors International (FII)
    Freediving Instructors International was founded by multiple world record freedivers and pioneers in freediving education, Martin Stepanek, and is the only freediving education curriculum in the world accepted at a collegiate level.
    An international technical diving agency that started a freediving program in 2000, it does not currently offer freediving on its website but still maintains freediving instructors worldwide.
  • Performance Freediving International (PFI)
    Performance Freediving International is a freediving training agency founded in 2000 by Kirk Krack. Krack coached world champion freedivers, Mandy-Rae Cruickshank and Martin Stepanek. PFI teaches freediving clinics around the world and is involved in both team and athlete development.
  • Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI)
    PADI is best known for being the largest provider of Scuba courses in the world, in 2015 they launched their Freediver programs that take you from complete beginner all the way up to Instructor level should you wish.
  • SSI Freediving
    Founded in 1970, SSI is one of the largest international diving organizations teaching courses ranging from swimming to freediving to tech diving.
  • RAID
    This is an international organization for setting course standards, organizing competitions, and ratifying world records.

Whilst there is no official equivalency table for the qualifications offered by these agencies, we’ve tried to give you an idea of how they equate to one another:

Freediving Course Equivalency Table
Freediving Course Equivalency Table

Click here for more articles in the Beginners Guide to Freediving

The Beginners Guide to Freediving - Header

Emma Farrell
Emma Farrell
Emma Farrell is one of the world’s leading freediving instructors and the author of the stunning book One Breath: A Reflection on Freediving. She has been freediving since 2001 and teaching since 2002. She is an Instructor Trainer with RAID, SSI, and AIDA, a founding member of the AIDA Education Commission and has written courses that are taught internationally, as well as her own specialty courses such as her course for surfers, spearfishing safety skills course and Gas Guzzler course.