Many thanks to NoTanx
Ask any scuba diver what their most important piece of equipment is or what they always check just before they enter the water and they’ll probably say their regs and air supply. So, why did 13 of K&E’s experienced scuba enthusiasts spend Saturday 18th February learning to dive without either? Well, the answers varied depending who you asked but reasons ranged from relaxation to curiosity. The one consistent answer, however, was to improve air consumption.
We all headed off early in the morning to a sports centre near St Pauls in London to attend a freediving foundation course run by NoTanx. In place of BCDs, cylinders, torches, drysuits etc, we carried swimwear, towels, track suits, and rather fetching swimming caps! Yes, even those follicley-challenged amongst us had to wear them. Kevan Tulip was sent on a mission the day before to purchase a supply for the group. He returned with a number of bright pink ones and a child’s one with a shark’s face and fin for Bret Champion!
The day started with a short session on the history and philosophy of freediving, followed by relaxation and stretching sessions. Feeling extremely calm, we donned our stylish swimming caps and headed off to the wonderfully warm pool to continue our relaxation in the water and practice our controlled breathing.
One of my personal objectives was to learn to swim underwater, something I’ve never been able to do – a few feet and I’m back on the surface! After only 1 ½ hours in the classroom and a little coaching in the water, I swam an entire length on the bottom of the pool, aided only by a pair of fins (admittedly it wasn’t an Olympic size pool).
Having all improved our body awareness in and out of the water, we dried off and stopped for a well-earned sandwich. During the break we watched some great video clips showing how the experts freedive – something for us to aspire to!
The afternoon session started with breathing exercises in the classroom. I think we all agreed that this was the most difficult element of the course. One of the reasons being the rather unfamiliar sitting positions that we had to adopt to allow us to breathe deeply and unrestricted. Traditional chairs were not an option! Instead we were ‘seated’ on foam sausages, foam blocks, or steps, with our legs tucked underneath us. It was tough keeping the mind focused on breathing correctly, rather than on our dead legs, squashed feet, and pins and needles!
The second pool session encompassed everything we had learned throughout the day. We practiced our buddy skills and static breath-hold underwater. I was buddied with one of the instructors: I was either very lucky or identified as a challenging student! Either way, I wasn’t complaining – it was a fantastic experience. I think we were all surprised at the length of time we could hold our breath in the pool and how incredibly relaxed we were. For all cynics out there, these techniques really do work!
Continuing with our buddies, we followed the process from start to finish: physically and mentally preparing; swimming lengths of the pool underwater; followed by safely ascending and recovering. For some, Kirstie Mitchell included, multiple lengths were completed in just one breath – very impressive.
We also had the opportunity to try mono-fins – a very strange experience. Getting them on was tricky enough; swimming with them proved even more challenging. Well done to Mark Cockram who made it look easy (and was far more graceful than I managed!)
Having pleaded with the sports centre staff to extend their opening times, the instructors eventually succeeded in dragging us out of the water 40 minutes over schedule. We just didn’t want to stop.
Particularly given those involved, I’m sure you can imagine the noise levels at the beginning of the day! As the day progressed the noise reduced, and by the end of the second pool session all that could be heard was the occasional ripple of the water, and encouraging words from supportive buddies. Quite an achievement for NoTanx!
The final session was back in the classroom where we learned about all eight competitive freediving disciplines. We were then presented with our certificates – something we should all be proud of.
The day ended with shouts of ‘anybody want to buy a twinset?’ and ‘how much do you think I can get for my scuba kit?’ There can surely be no greater recommendation of this course and activity. It really was a fantastic experience and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Well done to the following who attended:
1. Kirstie Mitchell
2. Dean Mitchell
3. Mark Cockram
4. Kevan Tulip
5. Jackie Maskell
6. Brian Maskell
7. Corinne Jacques
8. Bret Champion
9. Iain Richardson
10. Jim Molyneux
11. John Parrish
12. Alison Gatt
…and, of course, myself.
If you want to give it a go (and I recommend you do) have a look at the NoTanx website for more detail on their courses (www.notanx.com). You can also sign up and contact them on:
email : [email protected]
phone : +44 (0) 208 546 7302
Finally, a huge thank you to Kirstie who organized the day for K&E members, and to Marcus Greatwood and the NoTanx team.
With or without tanks, safe diving all.
By Gill Wilson