Beautiful and Dark, Quiet and Significant
For almost two years now WaterMaarq has visited Tasmania to deliver freediving certification courses hosted by our great friends and supporters at Go Dive Tasmania. It holds a special place in history for us because as far as we know, no one has ever run freediving certification courses in Tasmania before.
Our first ever course blew us away, the underwater features of the Tasman Peninsula with it’s big dark blue wonder abutted by steep rocky cliffs provided such a dramatic backdrop. It’s powerful landscape.
Last weekend 24-25th September, we were in for another treat though, as the weather and sea conditions took us to the waters surrounding he open water dives. You won’t find a more significant heritage site than Port Arthur. Not only is it Tasmania’s official top tourist attraction, but it represents the best surviving example of large-scale convict transportation and colonial expansion of European powers through the presence and labour of convicts. It is also renown as unfortunately the scene of the worst mass murder event in post-colonial history.
To run a PADI Freediver course with that kind of backdrop, it’s heavy material, but that’s Tasmania. The best thing is though, the participants from Tasmania are never dissuaded by tough conditions, dark heavy cold water or the remoteness of the dive locations. The toughness, robustness and mental strength of all the freedivers we’ve met and trained is to be admired. It makes you respect not only the people in the water with you, but the elements cloaking you and the will and determination that comes from living in a wild and untamed place.
Port Arthur penal colony was where the British Empire would send the hardest of convicted criminals. If you’re ever looking for the hardest of accomplished freedivers, you know now where to first go looking.
PADI Freediver Course Structure
The Tasmanian PADI Freediver course took it’s usual structure of:
- pre-learning completed by the students using the PADI Freediver Touch,
- a theory recap and extended double pool session, and
- the double open water freedive sessions.
Pool Freediving Session
The pool session evoked a lot of spirit from the students, they tackled the static drills, dynamic sets and safety practice with full gusto. With comfort, they all reached static breath-holds between 1:40 and 1:55 performing these times with ease and embracing the philosophy of not pushing it. From the first attempt, at least one student increased his breath-hold by 255%. During the dynamic swims, again, without pushing it, they delivered super easily and well executed 35m lengths.
With a focus on monitoring the body and mind for urges, signs and symptoms, the objective of this course is not to perform maximal personal bests or pull out from a swim with cyanosis or after repeated contractions or to explore the possibilities of performance achievements. The objective is to build personal awareness of the body’s response to apnea, what it means for each individual, how it is represented personally, and to develop a personal catalog in the mind of consistency. After all, in freediving, sometimes the largest warning sign is when something is happening out of the ordinary, rather than it being an obvious signal.
Open Water Freediving Sessions
By far the most demanding yet enjoyable part of the training is the PADI Freediver open water freedive sessions. Made even more significant by the September conditions. We were greeted by heavy grey skies, blustering easterlies and the threat of rain. No matter, when you’re in a place as remote and wild as the southern tip of Tasmania, you really have to be prepared for anything. Even 12c water temperature.
Under the guidance of our esteemed Skipper, Aaron of Go Dive Tasmania, aboard the aptly named vessel “Crusader”, we quickly left the boat ramp and made way by the Isle of the Dead cemetery island to arrive at our dive location. Protected from the wind and waves by imposing cliffs, we dropped into the water and quickly made acquaintance with a draughtboard shark resting on the bottom.
The water was dark, cold and heavy. It didn’t matter though, underneath there was visible structure of rock, kelp and healthy inquisitive marine life.
The students got quickly to work on their immersion technique. First, optimising equalisation and hydrodynamic form. As they quickly adapted to diving on the float and line, their comfort levels and subsequent depths became easier and easier. Dive times extended and soon enough the squad found themselves at personal best depths. In swift succession, each of the divers found new levels of comfort and progress, all resulting in comfortable, easy dives of 14m depth. At least one freediver doubled his working breathhold time. Impressive considering the difficult conditions, cold 12c water and 5mm open cell freediving wetsuits. Would you believe many Europeans freedive in 5mm smoothskin wetsuits in 28c water and complain when it drops to 24c?
The performance of the group was admirable and you can understand why Port Arthur has maintained it’s very significant and powerful reputation. The squad certainly exhibited the hardiness that you’d need and expect in such a demanding environment. Personally, we love going there, it’s like nowhere else on earth.
It’s a Wrap
Thanks goes to our friends and great hosts at Go Dive Tasmania for another formative weekend of freediving and a wonderful experience with the growing community of freedivers in Tasmania. Here’s a little insight into Go Dive’s Facebook post from the weekend.
If you’d like to join the next WaterMaarq PADI Freediver courses in Tasmania, keep up to date with us via the mailing list. Our next courses in Tasmania are forecast for Friday 2nd December – Sunday 4th December in Hobart. More details to be released soon.
Thanks for stopping by.
All images in this post taken using our trusty Nikon AW130 Waterproof Camera.
All images edited using the Adobe Creative Cloud suite including Lightroom and Photoshop.