Absolute peace. Ultimate freedom. Serene silence. Childlike wonder. These are the simple, heartfelt joys that free divers seek. Unencumbered by sophisticated and bulky scuba equipment, these amazing athletes and underwater enthusiasts can silently hover above reefs or dive hundreds of feet deep with just a single breath of air. Sweetie and I took our very first step in this exciting sport.
Our sponsors, Deuter and Dynamic Sports, invited us and a few other bloggers to attend a clinic called “Freedive for the Future.” This free diving clinic, which was sponsored by the globally recognized dive organization SSI (Scuba Schools International), was held in conjunction with the International Coastal Cleanup Day.
At around 10 AM on a sunny Saturday, we arrived at Freedive HQ in a quiet corner of Marigondon’s coast, our Sunday hangout when we were still children.
Freedive HQ Philippines is an adventure outfitter specifically for free diving, or apnea. The company aims to become the primary free diving hub in the Philippines and Asia. The warmth of Freedive HQ can already be felt at the entrance; polished bamboo structures interlaced with native tropical plants give the place a friendly aura.
For visitors who wish to stay for days or weeks to explore the waters of Mactan and Cebu, Freedive HQ offers cozy bungalows and dorms for rent. These comfortable rooms feature private terraces and places where guests can tie hammocks. Cool, shady chilling areas are also set all over the property, ensuring guests are comfortable.
Freedive HQ also sells various free-diving equipment such as fins, low-volume masks, snorkels, and wet suits. If what you’re looking for is unavailable, the friendly staff can help refer you to shops and outfitters that sell those highly sought products. In addition, Freedive HQ has bicycles and paddle boards for rent.
And the best part? Freedive HQ faces an exceptionally refreshing and scenic spot in Marigondon’s coast. It is undoubtedly irresistible for guests to simply don their gear and join in the fun.
A few hundred yards off the sandy shore is the coral-encrusted kantil of the island, which is a free diver’s playground. Freedive HQ often recommends boat dives for training and leisure sessions due to the presence of a relatively strong current in the channel. With boats following them throughout their sessions, free divers don’t need to struggle to swim back to shore.
After everyone introduced themselves, RAID/SSI Advanced Free Diving Instructor Benjamin Nicolas explained the basics, techniques, tips, and science of free diving. One of the most interesting techniques we learned from him is belly-breathing, which, as its name implies, inhaling and exhaling through the stomach. It is also a breathing technique often used by yoga enthusiasts. Benjamin said belly-breathing is very relaxing; we definitely agree although it needs some time to get used to it.
We have been snorkeling and swimming underwater for years, but knowing the science and physiology behind free diving opened new doors and gave us new insights into the sport.
Benjamin taught us how to belly breathe, fill our tummies and lungs with air, hold our breath, and replenish the oxygen in our lungs and blood through a series of sharp recovery breaths. The clinic was a mind-awakening one, and all of us were surprised as we were able to hold our breaths longer than we expected!
Freedive HQ uses high-tech devices to measure body temperature, heart rate, and more. This device, a spirometer, measures the volume of air in our lungs. We had a sort of a contest here—who can exhale the longest? The winner got a cool Freedive HQ cap and water bottle. I registered a mark of 4,250, just 250 points shy of 4,500, the day’s highest record.
We also used a small heart rate monitor to measure our heart rate and the oxygen in our blood. The device is clipped to the finger where its sensor detects a person’s pulse.
Seeing the human body activates its innate oxygen-conservation mechanisms is quite interesting. As we held our breaths underwater (in a basin for the purpose of demonstration), our heart beat slowed down to save oxygen, but the oxygen in our body remained the same.
We then changed into our swimwear and headed out to the water where we will apply what we learned earlier. Because of the low tide and strong current as well as the fact that we are still untrained, we weren’t going to the faraway kantil. Rather we stayed near the shore to practice static apnea.
For safety, free divers use a portable circular floating buoy that can be anchored to the bottom of the sea bed using a weighted line. The buoy serves a variety of purposes. It’s a sign to boaters and jetski riders that there are divers in the vicinity. It’s a dive marker as well as a flotation device. Finally, by clipping a lanyard to the line, the buoy is used as a guide.
Equipment such as dive computers, cameras, slates, and life-saving equipment can be safely stowed in the central compartment of the floating buoy.
Instructors then taught us how to use the buoy, keep a lookout of our dive buddies, help our dive buddy relax, perform basic safety and emergency protocols, and more. We were in the water for less than two hours, yet we learned a whole lot of free diving knowledge. Learning something new is what makes outdoor adventures so cool!
Applying what we learned about breathing techniques from our coaches, we began attempting to hold our breaths as long as we can while staying motionless in the water. By not moving at all, the body uses less oxygen. This discipline is called static apnea, and it is extremely relaxing. All we can hear are muffled voices and strange sounds of the sea.
I was able to hold my breath for a little bit over two minutes! Not bad for a beginner. Sweetie was able to hold hers for a little over a minute. Not bad as well considering she’s not really a water baby.
Some team members in PhotoUp, the company I’m employed with, are avid free divers who took courses in Freedive HQ Philippines. I interviewed them about their insights about the sport and gained a new perspective and respect for free diving. Check out this article Free Diving: PhotoUp’s Favorite Avenue for Adventure written by yours truly.
(Photo credit: Hannah Bacalla. Follow her underwater adventures through her Instagram HeartSea)
Even if we’re not really doing anything strenuous, being in the water for an extended period made our tummies grumble. We went back ashore, rinsed up, changed into dry clothes, and enjoyed a delicious feast prepared by the Freedive HQ staff.
Together with us was our Deuter endorser and Dynamic Sports Communication Officer Anna Concepcion. She and her team got in touch with us so we could be their product ambassadors. What an honor! Thank you, Anna, for putting your trust in us.
Free diving is a mental exercise as it is a physical challenge. As such, divers need to keep calm and relaxed. That is why yoga is a standard “companion” to free diving. Through breathing techniques, meditation, and stretching, yoga helps a diver attain relaxation, enlightenment, and peace of mind.
After the yoga session, we had the honor to meet world-class free-diver Thibault Guignes. Thibault dived a record-breaking depth of 105 meters (more than 300 feet) in Free Immersion category. That is deeper than our deepest scuba dive, which is 110 feet! He is also a French National Records holder and won the Triple Depth competition in 2015.
He enthusiastically answered all our questions regarding free diving, from techniques to the industry itself. What a cool guy!
The event was held in line with the International Coastal Cleanup Day. However, we took a more long-term approach than just cleanups. Reef-World Foundation Project Coordinator Juliana Corrales shared to us the principles and codes of conduct of Green Fins. She highlighted natural and man-made causes of reef degradation; erroneous mindsets of locals, tourists, and dive operators, which impede sustainability; and behaviors and actions that can aggravate coral reef damage. Juliana also explained how Green Fins can preserve the marine environment and help everyone involved in the marine tourism industry.
Reef-World Foundation is a UK-registered charity that supports and coordinates with global governments and local communities achieve sustainable consumption and usage of marine life and coastal resources. Their main project, which is implemented through a partnership with the UN Environment Program, is Green Fins.
Green Fins is a marine protection and preservation initiative operating in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. It helps implement effective and sustainable environmental standards for the diving, boating, and snorkeling industry. Green Fins aims to protect and preserve coral reefs as well as marine wildlife using environmentally friendly guidelines for a sustainable marine tourism industry.
Check out this video to learn how swimmers, snorkelers, scuba divers, free divers, resorts, dive outfitters, and boat operators can improve environmental and economic sustainability through the Green Fins certification program. You can also subscribe and check out the Green Fins YouTube channel for more videos.
Congratulations, ladies and gents! We made it, and we have certificates to prove we successfully accomplished our first free diving clinic!
(Photo credit: John Jay Bacon of Wandering Feet PH)
We stopped by the Deuter booth, which was set up in anticipation of the evening party. Get top-quality and reliable backpacks and travel accessories from Deuter. Their products are available on all Deuter as well as Chris Sports outlets nationwide.
Mares is another product line carried by Dynamic Sports. Mares manufactures top-quality aqua equipment such as wet suits, masks, rash guards, scuba equipment, and more. Just add water, and you’re good to go!
Like Deuter, their products are available at various Mares-affiliated dive shops and all Chris Sports outlets nationwide.
We would like to thank Thibault of Freedive HQ and Anna of Dynamic Sports for inviting us in the Freedive for the Future event. That was such an insightful weekend, and we learned some new things about doing quieter, safer, equipment-less dives. We are now seriously thinking of going for a Level 1 SSI certification.
Thank you too for the awesome bloggers and friends who joined us:
- Ian Limpanog of Freedom Wall
- John Jay Bacon of Wandering Feet PH
- Idas of Laag Sparkles
- Gly Gly of Chasing Potatoes
Thank you to our static apnea coach Paul Brewser. Paul is a dedicated and friendly instructor who is committed in helping you achieve your diving goals. He makes us feel as if he is a fellow team member—a big brother—rather than a high and mighty instructor. Paul’s friendly and gentle attitude allows us to feel really comfortable and at ease with him.
Finally, we would like to thank Juliana Corrales of the Reef-World Foundation for sharing to us insights of the Green Fins initiative. You made us more responsible divers, and we support the Green Fins endeavor all the way.
Safe, responsible, and eco-friendly free diving truly opens avenues of exploring the blue world. But the admiration, respect, and the will to protect the sea is just one collective reason why we gained a love for the sport. The other aspect is serenity— the joy of ultimate freedom and pure peace that is as deep as the unfathomable ocean.
(Above photo and cover photo credit: Freedive HQ Philippines)
Note: Just like any water sport, free diving has its own set of dangers and risks. We became aware of these after knowing a bit of the science and physiology behind the sport. Make sure you get proper training. The professional and qualified SSI/RAID instructors of Freedive HQ Philippines offer courses to make your dives safer and more enjoyable. Never free dive alone!
For courses, rates, and other information about free diving, get in touch with Freedive HQ using the contact details below:
- Mailing Address: Freedive HQ Philippines, Mar Beach, Marigondon, Lapu Lapu City, Cebu, Philippines 6015
- Phone number: 0926-008-1199
- Email: Freedivinghq@gmail.com
- Website: Freedive HQ Philippines
- Facebook Page: Freedive HQ Philippines
For Green Fins membership, accreditation, workshops, and information, get in touch with Reef-World Foundations using the following contact details:
- Contact Person: Juliana Corrales (Project Coordinator, Design and Communication)
- PH Phone Numbers: 0915-483-8252 / 0919-596-6347
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: Reef-World Foundation
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Philippine Management Team Email: email@example.com
- Website: Green Fins
The Green Fins website has downloadable content. All except the handbook for dive and snorkel centers are free of charge.