How I discovered I was not doing a good enough job of teaching freediving safety.
This blog post comes from my first episodes of FreeDive Live. You can see all of the episodes @ http://bit.ly/FDLwithTedHarty
Today I want to discuss a topic that is very important to me. Donny who runs www.freedivingcafe.com is a Freediving instructor, and this came up when he interviewed me for his podcast, which you can listen to @ https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/the-freedive-cafe/60-ted-harty-Niy4ZSBlXnf/
All the other freediving instructors out there and myself, are trying to create safe freedivers. We teach them the rules, the dos and the don’ts. We can control what they do while they are in our classroom, but we can’t control what they do once they leave us. Here is what I learned after teaching Freediving during my first 2 years.
There is a vast difference between delivering information on how to be a safe freediver versus convincing someone to actually dive safely after they leave your class.
The first time I noticed this issue was my second or third class on Catalina Island when I was working directly with Performance Freediving International. A student came up after class and was saying how amazing the course was, he learned so much, he couldn’t believe how easy those deep dives felt. Pretty common things to hear after a class.
Then he tells me that he is still planning on diving by himself, and if he dies, it not my fault and then goes on and on about how amazing the class was.
So I’m thinking… thank you? I guess?
I didn’t quite know how to take that. He basically said the class was great, but I won’t dive with a buddy and thanks!
At this point, we are in the parking lot, and if 4 days of a PFI Intermediate class wasn’t gonna teach him to be safe an extra 2 minutes in the parking lot probably won’t convince him, but I tried anyway and was still not successful.
We parted ways I thought well I can’t help it, I told him what to do, and he is choosing not to do it.
A few months later, I run across another student, he had taken the freediving class a few weeks ago. He’s telling me how amazing the course was and how much deeper he’s diving and how he’s getting bigger fish all of that stuff. I ask him where he dives, and he excitedly tells me he sometimes can go offshore from work. I ask him who he dives with and he tells me its only 30-40ft, so he doesn’t bother with a buddy.
I know I told him no less than 15 times over 3 days that you never want to dive by yourself. At this point though, the class is over, I give him a reminder to dive with a buddy and once again think, ok well this guy is crazy, I told him what to do, and he is choosing not to do it, so it’s not my fault.
A few months later, I ran across a captain buddy of mine who took two of my students out spearfishing. I asked him how they did, and he said they did great. I asked him if they were diving in teams, one up one down, close enough to grab, etc. He told me they separated as soon as they got in the water.
Once again I think, I told these guys want to do, it’s not my fault they are crazy and choose not to listen.
Then I started to realize, wait a minute, every single time I run across my students, I’m hearing they are not diving safely. I’m teaching them exactly what to do, but they don’t seem to be implementing what I’m teaching.
Now I’m really starting to get worried! Do any of my students dive safe?
When I heard one of my students was not diving safely, it’s easy to brush it off and say well he’s crazy, but when I keep hearing over and over that my students are not diving safely I start to realize it not them it’s me.
Let me digress a bit.
When I teach the freediving instructor program, there is something that I make sure every instructor candidate understands. When a student makes a mistake in my opinion 80% of the time, it’s the instructor’s fault.
Sure sometimes students just make mistakes, but I firmly believe most of the time it’s due to the instructor. The instructor forgot to mention something or didn’t explain the issue in a way that the student could process. I know from experience that certain things might have to be said 3 or 4 times before they sink in.
Even with 10 years of experience, I still catch myself making mistakes.
The freediving entry it probably the single most complicated skill I teach, it literally has over 10 steps. Last month I was teaching a class, and I explained the entry, and then I had them start working on it. Over half the students were all making the same mistake, at first I’m thinking what the heck?
Then I think back to my explanation I realize I forgot one specific part, and that part is designed to stop the particular problem I’m seeing right now. Why are the students making mistakes? Because I made a mistake.
So when I hear multiple examples of my students diving unsafely I can’t just blame it on those particular students, can I?
I’m forced to realize that it’s my fault. I gave them the information on how to be dive safe, but I did not convince them actually to dive safe, and there is a big difference between the two.
In my opinion, this is a complete failure of my job as a freediving instructor.
The first 2 years of teaching, unfortunately, this was what I was doing. I was just giving them the information. This is what a loss of motor control looks like, this is what a blackout looks like, this is how to perform a loss of motor rescue, this is how to perform a blackout rescue. Dive one up one down, be close enough to grab, watch for no less than 30 seconds, don’t wear so much weight.
Sure, during my class, they were diving perfectly safe in class because I’d holler like a banshee if they were doing otherwise. They could do perfect blackout rescues because my students practice that one over 15 times per class.
It doesn’t matter that they’re the best blackout rescuer on the planet. If their buddy surfaces 50-75ft away and the buddy has a blackout at the surface while they are underwater shooting a hogfish their blackout rescue skills are irrelevant.
It’s all about proper freediving supervision practices. If you ain’t there, you can’t do anything about it.
This was when I had to admit I had a problem, so then I thought what am I gonna do about it.
Most freediving education has its roots in competitive Freediving, and so much of the language comes from competitive Freediving. When I first started teaching most of the videos I showed were of competitive freedivers having a blackout after a super deep dive or after static apnea.
My customers at the time were 95% spearfisherman. So when they see a video of a competitive Freediver having an issue after a 200ft dive it’s easy for them to say well, of course, the guy had a blackout out, he was diving crazy deep! I’m only diving to 40-50 feet, so this stuff really doesn’t apply to me.
One of the things I did was I tried to structure the entire course for a spearfisherman and remove most of the focus on competitive Freediving, so my students could relate better.
The next thing I did was, I started to spend a lot more time on the safety portion of the program. The first 3 hours of my course is now all on safety.
I then turned the entire presentation into a sales pitch. I used to wear a suit and tie and work in sales, and I know how to sell.
This is how you are going to dive from now on, this is why you are going to dive this way, and this is why it’s in your interest to do it this way.
Throughout the presentation, they are seeing videos of spearfisherman having a blackout, they see videos of my students rescuing spearfisherman from a blackout. These videos are hard for them to ignore because it speaks their language.
After my students hear that I’ve had over 10 of my students rescue fellow spearfisherman from a blackout after the course, it gets their attention.
I then have a section where I actually convince the students that they will put more fish in the cooler if they hunt in teams as opposed to jumping in the water and competing against the over divers.
I jokingly say dive in teams, and you will get more fish. You also get this little insignificant bonus of not dying.
I spend time discussing the fatality numbers during the course, and I don’t sugar coat anything. In my estimation, there are 50-75 fatalities per year in the USA, and most occur while spearfishing, but more and more are happening in the pool.
I have a large number of my students coming from other freediving instructors. At the end of my course, I ask them, how many of them were diving in the way that I outline in my program, close enough to grab, watch for no less than 30 seconds, etc after their previous freediving course. Most, but not all, say they are not.
I believe 100% of the freediving instructors out their students how to dive safely. I don’t believe there are instructors of any agency saying it’s ok to dive by your self if you only dive shallow, and it’s ok to be 50ft away from your buddy when they surface. I just think this is an example of what I used to do when I started. I taught them the rules, but I didn’t convince them to implement the rules.
Now let’s be clear, I can’t claim that 100% of my students will leave my class and dive safe every single dive. No instructor can claim that, but I can tell you that I see and hear so many of my spearfishing students diving safely now. I see them convincing their friends to dive safely and sharing that safety first mentality. I have had so many phone calls from students saying they saved someone’s life because they were diving in teams and were close to thier buddy when they surfaced, recognized the sign of a blackout and saved them.
I’m working on a free program for instructors of any agency where I will share my safety pitch. How I convince my students to dive safely. This pitch is something I’ve been working on for 10 years and something I take very seriously.
If I can share that with another instructor and they can convince more of their students to dive safely after their class that’s a win-win for all involved.
You can see much of my “pitch” on my new website www.FreedivingSafety.com which I launched in February of 2019.
The website contains a free online course. During the course students will learn the risks of the sport, the truth about blackouts, the truth about the fatality numbers, how to tell if you are wearing too much weight, what a loss of motor control and a blackout looks like, and how to save your buddies life if they have a blackout.
There is also a quiz in the course. If you can pass the quiz, you will get an email with discount codes from 9 of the sponsors of www.FreedivingSafety.com.
Learn to save your self, learn to save your buddy’s life, or save some money, but either way, there is no reason not to visit www.FreedivingSafety.com
I created this website because, after 10 years of teaching, I hear the following excuses all the time. I would love to take your course BUT
– I don’t have the time
– I can’t get the time off work
– Too busy with the kids
– My spouse would kill me
– Can’t afford it right now
If you are smart enough to be interested in learning how to freedive safely, or as I often say how to not kill yourself, I want you to have access to that information.
If you want to get better at freediving, you are gonna have to pay to take a class, that’s the way the world works. On the other hand, if you want to learn to be safe, I don’t want that hidden behind a paywall. I want ANYBODY to have easy access to professional level information with regards to freediving safety from a trusted and reliable source for free.
My new goal is to teach more people about safe Freediving than anyone on the planet, and my new website is the vehicle to help me reach my goal.
This website has only been online for 5 months, and it has almost taught more people about safe Freediving than I have in my entire 10-year career!
I will be taking a break from teaching classes for a bit to focus on promoting www.FreedivingSafety.com.
Here are some of my other online freediving courses I offer.
I have 2 free online courses, the first one I have already mentioned. The second free course I have is the most popular course I have created. It’s had over 1,000 students enroll.
This course will teach you how to increase your bottom time.
I don’t care if you are spearfisherman, a recreational freediver, a line diver, a competitive freediver, or an underwater basket weaver we all want more time underwater.
The fastest way to increase your bottom time is to make sure you are taking the biggest breath you can. One of the first things my students learn in class is how to take a 20-30% bigger breath, and you will learn the same way they do.
If you put 20-30% more fuel in a car, it will go 20-30% farther. If you take a 20-30% bigger breath before every dive, you will obviously be able to stay down longer.
You can access your free course @ www.OnlineFreedivingCourses.com
My premium online freediving courses.
Make your equalizing problems a thing of the past.
If you struggle to equalize your ears in the 15-40ft range, this course is a must!
Do you notice no matter hard you try you can’t equalize your ears in the 15-40ft range?
Have you noticed that when you turn around with your head up to the surface they clear easily?
If so, sign up now and make your equalizing problems a thing of the past.
Breath Hold Secrets – this course is a must-have if you have yet to take a freediving course.
One thing that every single freediving course regardless of agency or instructor teaches during their class, is the biggest secret to breath holding.
The secret is, it’s not what you do while you hold your breath that matters, it’s what you do before your hold breath that makes all the difference. When you properly prepare, it’s actually quite easy to hold your breath a long time.
The course is only $39, you can learn more @ https://immersionfreediving.teachable.com/p/breath-hold-secrets
Without a doubt the one course I have the will do the absolute most to transform your freediving is my 28-Day Freediving Transformation Program.
I ask every freediver and spearfisherman, are you interested in diving deeper, feeling more comfortable and depth and getting rid of that panicky feeling, as well as increasing your bottom time.
They always answer that question yes, never no.
The next question I ask them is, what are you currently doing to get that result. They typically tell me I go out freediving whenever I can.
That is not targeted and specific training that is hoping you will get better.
In my program you will learn the 5 most effective freediving specific training exercises that you can do at home. No need to go to the pool no need to go to the ocean.
A recent testimonial from my 28-Day Transformation Program.
It is absolutely worth the money. I realized after taking this course how many different training techniques you can do out of the water that have major benefits!
Right after finishing the course I took a spearfishing trip for a week and could not believe how much more comfortable I was at depth with contractions happening later in my dives, and my overall bottom time increased dramatically.
It is wild to me how much my breath hold improved in 30 days. I can only imagine how much better my diving will get in the future with what I learned.
I also suggest to anyone who is having problems equalizing to take Ted’s Frenzel Equalization course. The combination of the Frenzel and 28-day transformation course have improved my diving substantially.
Ted does a fantastic job teaching, and I will 100% be taking more of his courses in the future.
Dive safe out there it’s not even that hard!
Ted Harty – your trusted and reliable online freediving resource.