As humans we all have an innate ability to tap into something known as the mammalian diving reflex (MDR). This happens subconsciously as your body feels the water surround it and it prepares to be submerged. Blood is pulled from the extremities and concentrated in the main organs and the heartbeat slows.
The more frequently a person dives, the more the body becomes accustomed and adjusted to diving to greater depths. (This does not mean, however, that every person has the ability to dive deep.) After freediving for more than 15 years — relying only on pure ability to get to the bottom — I have reached a plateau. I’ve been spearfishing comfortably in up to 90 feet, but can’t move past that depth.
So, I am going back to school.
As the spearfishing and freediving industry has blossomed in the last decade, tons of learning centers and small businesses have popped up to help individuals with their freediving skills. The school that appeals to me personally is Performance Freediving International (PFI). The classes it offers are broad and it accepts all skill levels, including a beginning freediver class that covers instruction up to 60 feet. Just recently I was able to sign up for the intermediate class … after I was given an awesome birthday present from my girlfriend! Although I haven’t taken the class yet, I am in possession of the school manual. Despite the fact that I am a serious freediver, the book covers information that is new to me. I’m finding it hard to put down and I’m thirsty for the next page. In fact, I’ve been reading it continuously. It illustrates that I have a long way to go in my own education.
The book highlights things such as anticipating shallow water black out and how to manage the situation if it happens. It also covers how to go deeper, stay longer, and be safer. I have yet to even take the course and I already know that it was one of the best choices I could’ve made.
If you have a child or a loved one that is beginning to get very good at freediving, I would highly recommend taking the next step and signing them up for professional education. In the Keys, most divers tend to rely on their experiences, which isn’t sufficient should a problem arise. While not such a big problem for new and cautious divers, it is very risky for more experienced divers — who push harder — to be uneducated. I can think of quite a few kids at the high school who are good enough to have problems.
I skated by long enough and do not want to see any unfortunate accidents happen to fellow divers. I am very blessed to have the ability to take this class and I cannot wait until I have the capability to get down deep then have a minute to hunt before coming back to the surface!
I hope this article and my honest admission about the gaps in my own freediving education will inspire others to take a class, too.
James Simcic speared his first fish when he was eight years old and now he hunts in the big leagues for gamefish. He is a licensed captain, avid spearfisherman and ambassador of the sport. He also owns and operates spearcrazy.com, a spearfishing line of apparel and accessories. For more information, visit www.spearcrazy.com.