My First Freediving Experience at Tag-Ulo Dapitan
If you think freediving is just snorkeling but just going really deep, think again. Freediving is an entirely different way to experience underwater. It requires a lot of mental capacities and physical awareness. As a person who tends to have intense anxieties, I would say that my first freediving experience wasn’t as easy as you think it is. But freediving can be easily learned.
This blog post is about my personal experience with freediving for the first time, even without proper training. Wait, wait, wait! Hold up! I do not suggest that you try self-taught freediving because, unlike any other sport, it has a dangerous risk of its own. So, no! PLEASE DO NOT TRY IT WITHOUT PROPER TRAINING, AND DO NOT DO IT ALONE!
How I started Freediving
You might have seen a lot of Instagram photos and TikTok videos about freediving. And it sparks a bit of interest in you that you want to try it so bad. I get you! I started on the same phase as well four years ago. I know it’s a long time before actually getting into it, but it’s really worth waiting.
The breathtaking underwater photos have driven me to do freediving. Don’t judge me! It’s always the photos that want me to try new things. LOL!
When 2021 came, I experienced scuba diving for the first time. My anxiety was so bad at that time, but it helped me conquer my fears underwater. That experience urged me and gave me courage that maybe, I can freedive.
In the same year, I found a community of local freedivers in Dapitan City– the #TeamBoya.
Boya is a freediving community that inspires people to try freediving. They were all over my Facebook newsfeed when I was busy as a tourism ambassador for Region 9, Zamboanga Peninsula; that’s why I never got the chance to join them. Their weekend fun dives made me want to look forward to the day that I could finally be able to join.
Before joining the team, I had my pool training at Dakak Park and Beach Resort with one of the certified molchanovs students of Maresa Secades, a freediving record holder from Apnea Philippines in Dapitan City, to familiarize myself with some techniques and learn a few theories about freediving. Although it wasn’t the kind of training with a certified freediving instructor, it was a big leap toward my freediving dream.
How Did I Prepare for my First Dive?
Fast forward to March 2022, I finally went freediving.
My first freediving experience wasn’t an overnight preparation. Aside from the essential things to bring, such as sunscreen, wet suits (maybe bikinis), drinking water, extra clothes, and more, I actually studied. It wasn’t just a typical weekend beach vacation, so beforehand, I watched many Youtube videos about freediving, practiced relaxation exercises, practiced breathing exercises through an app, and had a goodnight sleep. Of course, I’m lying about having a good sleep. I was too excited to sleep early.
I heard about not drinking coffee before diving. That’s why I also avoided drinking coffee the day before my first freediving experience, and then I had some after because my coffee addict self says so. Not drinking coffee before dive is heavily recommended as freediving needs to have a physical awareness, and you’ll need a clear head when doing it.
On the Day of my First Freediving Experience
Although Aliguay Island is famous for its beautiful diving spot, the closest location that we can go freediving in Zamboanga del Norte is Barangay Tag-Olo.
Tag-Olo is a long beautiful stretch of white sand beach on the coastline of Dapitan City. It’s an hour and a half ride from Dipolog City.
It was Saturday, the usual day for Boya’s fun dives schedule. I got there at 8 AM. Before the dive, we did a stretching exercise. I badly needed that stretch because my always concern with swimming is leg cramps. I experience cramps in 99% of my swimming activities.
We had a quick theory about freediving, or should I say it was just a run-through of some information that I had learned when I researched about it. My heart started pounding like crazy I was so nervous because I was expecting beyond just a stretching exercise and a little theory talk.
My determination and the few scuba diving techniques that I learned, such as equalization, have given me an advantage.
On our first dive…
The diving spot is just a 5-minute walk from the beach. For me, it’s a good start for a beginner like me, rather than actually hopping on the boat, driving into the deep water, and then go diving. The gradual increase of water has helped my mind get into focus like it’s telling me that, “This is it. You have to dive, and you can do this!”
The boys in the team are the ones who set up the buoy and have it secured.
Then we did the line training on our first dive of the session.
It wasn’t the kind of training I had seen on videos, like those with an instructor that goes down with you. But it was enough for me to have people with me to watch me practice underwater. The first time I went down, I think I only lasted for around five seconds and then went up as quickly as possible.
My anxiety started to kick in. It was deep that I couldn’t even imagine myself floating above the water and my feet were no longer touching the ground.
On Our Second Dive…
We had lunch, and then we went on our second dive in the afternoon. There’s a cliff underwater with zero visibility of any living things beyond it, and it feels weird watching it.
After several times of self-training, I finally reached the bottom end of the line, which was a huge progress for me. I didn’t even notice that an hour had passed already.
I was on my second dive on the first day of my freediving experience, and we had already done some aura underwater photoshoots with a newfound dive buddy, Shine. Here are some of the photos shot from a GoPro. Yes, the forms aren’t perfect, and we did this just above the water, but it looks fetch!
Below are photos on my first freedive, taken and edited by Alvin Darryl Panogalinga— a pioneer and member of Boya. It’s hard to believe that I finally did it. Through out this experience, I realized that there will be no progress if we don’t push ourselves.
You just really have to do it.
Do it today!
Since my first freediving experience last March 2022, I have already done four dive sessions with #TeamBoya. I am grateful to them and to all my newfound dive buddies that I get to enjoy this hobby as much as they do.
Second Fun dive session: Learning How to Duck Dive
A week later, I joined another fun dive session. I learned how to duck dive. It’s one of my favorite things to do now when freediving because it helps me to reach the bottom way faster. The duck dive is the foundation of your entire dive.
A good duck dive will have you at five meters with almost no effort, while a poor duck dive will leave you thrashing about, using up your precious oxygen supplies before you have even left the surface. That’s why this is one of the techniques that I have been practicing to improve my body positioning and finning.
Look how I did on my first duck dive attempt.
In simplified explanation, for me, here’s what I have learned on how to do an effective duck dive.
- Last breath, snorkel out, pre-equalize
- ARMS reach down, hinge at hips
- LEGS come up in the air together
- ARMS pull and one hand comes to the nose to equalize
- LEGS start finning
You have to try it! Otherwise, you’ll never be able to do it. Your body can feel it when you’ve done it well. Make sure to ask someone in your group to take a video of you doing a duck dive for the first time so that you’ll know what to improve the next time.
During this dive session, some of the comments from my buddies is to do bigger finning and my arms need to stretch more before going down. I am taking all these comments to be better at it.
I may have driven to do freediving to have beautiful underwater photos, but the benefits of it are beyond what it has given me. One of it is stress-relief since the most important part of freediving is relaxation. It has given me more confidence, and it improved my focus. Life in general, I have surprisingly learned to control my mood. Maybe because this sport requires continuous effort, determination, and constantly being in tune with your mental state.