The Manual of Freediving was co-authored by Umberto Pelizzari (a retired competitive freediver, 16 time world record holder, and founder of the Apnea Academy) and Stefano Tovaglieri (Freedive instructor trainer at the Apnea Academy and director for the Italian National freedive team). Their combined education and experience helped create the most comprehensive, in depth multi-level book I’ve ever read about freediving. They not only updated and added new components and techniques to the first edition, but created a text book you can expect to revisit throughout your freediving career.
For those unfamiliar with freediving or the first edition to the Manual of Freediving … Expect it to read more like a text book or a “How to,” than a book for entertainment. You might even be inclined to take notes.
The most important lesson in this book begins with the foreword, and ends in the disclaimer stating:
“Please note that this manual should be used as a supplement to your Apnea Instructor, not as a stand alone learning tool.”
I cannot stress that enough, but for those who have been trained, (mainly intermediate, advanced certified freedivers or instructors) this is an amazing training tool to keep in your library.
Pros or Things I Liked The Most:
- The section on freediving anatomy and physiology could be its own college course. It is more detailed than any freedive text I’ve read outside of a class.
- The detailed drawings throughout the book really help to clear up some of the complex topics that are covered.
- You’ll get an in depth look at the mammalian dive reflex, and how to adapt your body to the in water environment.
- Amazing tips (I tried each one) for relaxation on land and in the water. It also provides insightful ideas for those instructors having a hard time connecting to a student that will not release their body tension. I could see some of these exercises being useful to aid any class before attempting static apnea.
- For those new instructors or those training to be an instructor, the “Errors of Finning” provides visual examples of the issues you’ll come across: fin stroke form and technique errors, why it’s occurring, what it’s doing and tips on how to fix it. Very helpful for recognizing and correcting improper form.
- The section on equalization is broken down with precision. It describes how to execute the different methods used, and ways to train to overcome your equalization hurtles both on land and in the water. Having tried many of these methods in the past, I can say first hand they work well.
- Diet to aid in all types of apnea, and changes to make in your diet when diving in water with different temperatures.
- One of my favorite parts was the last section, “Training For Apnea.” It provides great training tips for land and water exercises, equipped with training logs you could scan or print out to track your progress. Also provided are bench mark swim tests that you can do yourself to get a better feel for your fitness gains.
Cons or Concerns:
- It’s so comprehensive I feel it can be overwhelming and can take away from the “meat and potatoes” of the subjects covered for newer divers.
- A new freediver might think it’s a supplement to taking a course, or could overwhelm a new freediver by not knowing which parts are most important, what to focus on, or even worse, self-teaching that can lead to bad form and technique. Self-teaching not only can promote bad habits, but could also harm or kill you.
I also disagree with 2 parts described in the section on safety:
When aiding an underwater black out, it’s pictured and described in a way that doesn’t seem to protect the airway in a proficient way:
“The rescuer passes an arm underneath the armpit of the victim and keeps the head hyperextended with the hand of the same arm placed over the jaw.” pg. 384
So I took it to a pool and tried it. It works, but not nearly as well as cradling the base of the victims head with one hand, and using your other hand to hold the palm under the victims jaw, while pinching the nose holding the mask in place…plus swimming felt less efficient in the book described method.
The second example provided, didn’t protect the airway at all
“The rescuer takes the victim under the armpits, and with arms extended upwards starts the descent finning strongly.” Pg. 384
After personally trying this in the pool, (as pictured and described in the book) it made the persons head fall back allowing water to enter my victims mouth. There also wasn’t any mention of buoyancy in this section and how we always should dive with a wetsuit for safety, which requires removing the weights when performing this underwater rescue. As an instructor I feel these issues should be addressed for safety reasons being that untrained freedivers might be reading this book before taking a class (the mention of proper weighting in a separate safety section IS stated: “Modify weighting to have positive buoyancy at 10m.” p406 – however, I didn’t feel it was strongly stressed there either).
Many parts did not change, but here are the additions you will find in the Second Edition:
- Minor additions to the “History of Freediving”
- The section “Body Map and Body Image” is new, and gives specific techniques to speed up your water adaption.
- Updates in the explanation of the “blood shift”
- More detailed visual descriptions throughout the book
- How to work your soft palate for equalization.
- Expanded sections on anatomy and physiology
- A complete section on understanding the “mind” and how to train it for relaxation.
- How to track your dives and keep a dive log (with example logs provided)
- Section on relaxation expanded
- “Approaching Static Apnea” expanded
- Pool exercises to work on entry level fin stroke, form, and technique
- Images of the “correct dive form” updated
- Monofin exercises to improve form, technique, and strength.
- How to do a dynamic apnea pool turn.
- Section on safety has expanded
- Section on “Training for Apnea” has expanded and includes examples of training logs.