One breath, endless excitement

One breath, endless excitement

Formula Freediving teaches the art of breath holding

Submerging 130 feet underwater on one breath of air, Formula Freediving owner and instructor Andrew Eales surpasses what most can do with a Scuba tank on their back.

Before taking three courses and an instructor certification, Eales used to top out at 40 feet. After his first free diving class, he was touching sand at 66 feet underwater. Now he can easily spear fish in 90 feet of water – all on one breath of air.

“A lot of people who take the course start at only being able to dive down 20 feet,” Eales said. “The course teaches breathing, theory of how the body works, and kicking techniques.”

Hailing from Ormond Beach, Florida, Eales has been coming to the Keys for the past 20 years and moved to Marathon permanently six month ago, opening Formula Freediving’s doors a couple weeks ago.

“I saw a community here in the Keys based around the water, a community that needs proper safety techniques to properly enjoy freediving,” he said. “People push the limit and shallow water blackout is real.”

Wikipedia says shallow water blackout is a loss of consciousness caused by cerebral hypoxia towards the end of a breath-hold dive in shallow water.

Cole and Clay Daniels, spearfishing brothers who live in Marathon, are in the midst of taking the classes now. “They are the perfect example of two people who are naturals and are already hitting 100 feet,” Eales said, “but are taking the class to learn about the safe way to free dive.”

Eales learned freediving from one of the most prominent names in freediving, 13-time Freediving World Record Holder Martin Stepanek. Stepanek is a freediving pioneer who currently holds the record of diving deeper than anyone has ever achieved – more than 400 feet in a single breath of air, which he can hold for eight minutes.

Formula Freediving offers various levels of certification classes to learn free diving. The first certification takes place over a two-day time span. Day one starts at 9 a.m. with four hours of classroom time and the rest of the time spent in a pool and rock quarry, ending around 5:30 p.m. (He has a classroom on-site at Formula Freediving.) The second day takes place offshore and students learn proper warm up, kicking, hydrodynamics, and practice safety scenarios. The cost of the class is $365 per person, and includes the boat rental. By the end of the level one certification, freedivers will have the skills, knowledge and confidence to dive to depths of 66 feet. Level two is a four-day class pushing the limits to up to 132 feet. The next available class is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, June 27-28, and are offered every couple weeks through September.

Eales also offers private classes with the added benefit of flexible scheduling. On a recent afternoon, dive instructors Kati Wires and Kevin Foster were inquiring about the class. Eales said they could do the course work in the evening, the pool and quarry work another evening, and then a boat day when they were free.

Gear needed for the course is minimal: a wetsuit of 1mm or thicker to protect the freediver from the elements as well as add relative buoyancy; fins of any kind, although freediving fins are recommended; and a mask, low volume is best but any would work.

“It is safe to say that I have the biggest selection of freediving gear in the Keys,” he said, “and, possibly, the biggest selection of spearfishing gear, too.”

In addition to spearguns and wetsuits, Formula Freediving carries all of the necessary equipment for a successful freediving or spearfishing trip, including sweet swag to look good when the wind is blowing too hard to get out on the water.

Formula Freediving is located at 2940 Overseas Highway, next to Keys News and Coffee. More information on courses can be found at formulafreediving.com. Everything he sells can also be ordered online.

Freediving tips:

  1. Always freedive with a buddy.
  2. Weigh yourself properly.
  3. Breathe normally, no hyperventilating.
  4. Take a course.

— Andrew Eales, freediving instructor

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