Freediving 101- Embracing Fears (Date #300/365)

May 21, 2015

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave… is not [one] who does not feel afraid, but… who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela


We were on the middle of the ocean, I was shivering and couldn’t jump off the dingy. Mark and Ben are already in the water and I was scared…just scared. It was my first-time jumping out of a boat without a life jacket in the deep ocean. I don’t trust my swimming skills.. all these thoughts were just there…..

After hearing a couple of wonderful stories from people we met on the road about free diving Mark was keen on trying it. Of course I thought this  would be one of those things that I would watch him do on his own… it wasn’t.

Knowing my fears in the water and that you have to dive deep in the ocean just holding your breath seemed like an easy ‘NO’ to me. Here’s my biggest problem, I know how to swim but when it gets to unknown depths like the ocean or any deep natural bodies of water, I’m terrible and I tend to panic. I wasn’t sure if I want to get over my fear just yet. I wasn’t sure how or when because it just seemed like there was no perfect time or place because of the million excuses I make… “its expensive, not worth my stress, the water’s too cold, I have allergies, etc..” It was endless!

“Fear is definitely irrational”

But how did Mark get me to say yes to free diving?

He didn’t, it was Ben our free diving instructor. We met Ben the first day we arrived in Bocas del Toro -a group of islands at the northern Caribbean side of Panama. We inquired about free diving and if its a good idea to try it if I have a fear in the water. He said YES without a second thought. I took a minute, he seemed believable but since this is our 2nd time asking about free diving I wasn’t sure if I was convinced. A month ago we asked about freediving when we were in Costa Rica and the guy said it’s not for me because apparently the water in the pacific gets a bit rough. Should I trust Ben…

Deep down in me there’s that yearning to get out and break free of that fear but I need to ease in to it, if there’s even a way. I thought free diving was the answer to it since they teach you proper breathing techniques. So will it be?


Let me ease you into my journey.

I think one thing that hesitates people into trying free diving is the fact that people don’t know about it.

So first things first, what is FREE-DIVING?

Freediving, also called apnea,is the art of diving under a single breath. It is the most natural way of exploring the ocean. And with the right techniques and methods we humans can develop and train our potential of staying in a comfortable and relaxed way under the surface. By discovering your own possibilities you will soon realize that you don’t only feel more connected to the underwater world but that you also reach a new level of awareness within your body and mind. Unlike scuba diving there is no need for bulky equipment in freediving. Since you don’t leave a trace of bubbles where you swim, the chances of interaction with the rest of the marine life increase and you can easily become one with the ocean. -Freediving Bocas

It is definitely not free and it’s also very different from scuba diving. Mark says its actually better. As for me, I can’t really compare since I haven’t tried scuba diving. He said its better because you don’t have the noise of the tanks when you dive.

What you need to expect?
  • Breathing techniques & exercises
  • Awareness of your lung capacity
  • Expanding your limits
  • Freedom in the water 😉
Why take a free-diving course?
  • Its the most natural way of exploring marine life
  • Being comfortable in deep snorkeling
  • Better underwater photography/videography
  • Spear fishing

…..We put our weight belts on then the mask. Ben reassured that I was positively buoyant because of my wetsuit and my fins…that means I will float. I finally jumped in. Then I held on to Ben’s hand and held on to the rope that leads to the bouy. It took me a few minutes to get comfortable. I started doing my breathing techniques with the mask and snorkel. 8 cycles head down then 8 cycles up. I took my last breath then down I went. We probably did at least ten dives or even more. There were times  where I’d still panic but Ben constantly reassured me that it’s totally normal. That I can even control it. He encouraged that every time we go down, we should stay for a bit, have a look around and know that its okay. 😉  I went down panicked again but in the middle of it decided that I am okay and ascended thinking it only takes a decision in your brain to actually get out of fear. It actually felt better and better each time I go down.

I got to 7 meters (23ft) the first day and Mark did about 12 meters(40ft). A 2 story house in the Philippines would be around 7 meters. Sorry for the house reference, that’s the designer in me. Lol I dove as high as a house. Okay that might sound confusing but I did! Isn’t that CRAZY!

After the first day we were so tired. Exactly what he told us.

Passed out, slept.

2nd day. Had a 2-hour breathing class in the boat. He taught us a lot of yoga breathing that would help not only for free diving but as a personal breathing exercise. We got into the water, did our breathing cycles then down we go. I was able to dive around 14 meters deep then Mark did a whopping 20 METERS!!! That’s a lot! That’s like 2 houses for me and 7houses for Mark.

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At the end of it all we did it. I did it. I faced my fears!!! It wasn’t so bad after all but the thing with dealing with fear is that it is a process. I need to keep doing it in order for me to be completely over it.

I guess ultimately, what I learned was to not fight my fears but embrace it. Fighting your fear makes for a harder battle. Embracing it and knowing that it’s there, Seeing it for what it is, creates a better understanding of why you feared it in the first place. But once you actually do the thing you feared the most, you feel FREE. Slowly you’ll realize that its actually not as big as you thought it is… and eventually it’s not even there anymore. 

Would you ever try free diving?
If you’re interested click here or here to inquire about freediving in Bocas del Toro. Panama has by far the cheapest place to do it. We would definitely recommend our wonderful instructor Ben who made our freediving experience even more enjoyable.
How about you, have you gone through something similar? Have you done something that your were scared of even doing? I wanna hear what you think.
Let us know, share your experiences below. 😉

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