Meet Feng, he completed his level 1-3 freediver courses at Apneista and has a few insights to share regarding his equalisation progression.
He started spearfishing in Los Angels, mostly learning how to freedive from spearo's.
"Learning freediving from spear fishermen is so broken in terms of their advice, there's always kind of a winging it. Man, most Spearo's are not really diving safely."
Feng was fortunate enough to have the natural ability to "hands-free" equalise the first few metres (keeping the eustachian tubes open, not needing to pinch the nose).
This can be a blessing and a curse as we often see freedivers struggle more with EQ later on when using the Frenzel technique for deeper diving.
After his first course, Feng was quite overwhelmed with all the new information.
"I tried to work on Frenzel, but it wasn't working. I think was learning too many things at the same time. Being in the water, in a different environment, trying to relax certain parts and trying to Frenzel"
Feng took the time between his next courses and focused on snorkelling, which is the best advice I would always give to students after their first freediving course, you just need more time, not rush the experience.
"I was lucky that, after doing level one, I knew that I was going to be doing a lot of snorkelling. So I think that was the right mindset for me to start that course. I knew that other students in the course were ready to go from level one to level two, and they had the expectation to perform requirements."
As students, we learn new skills by getting it wrong and experimenting, equalising the pressure in the ears deals mostly with sensation, feeling your way around.
"That was a learning curve because I think looking back now, I was over-equalising. I think I was waiting for a big popping sensation. I think for sure it was just a lot of confusion in terms of what's working and what wasn't working in a short amount of time"
Feng took a month's break before his level 2 course but was still struggling to equalise past 11m during the level 2 course.
"Im talking to different instructors, and they're giving me their assessment they're all correct in that, but it takes almost talking to five different experts and one of them is going to have a solution that works for you, but all five are correct"
Still persevering Feng took a few private coaching sessions and experienced an "ah ha" moment with Frenzel equalisation.
"My aha moment was I think muscle memory and just having the correct head position, and instantly I hear a difference in terms of the muscle reflexes in my ears."
This is where coaching is great because it's personalised, and you get more time practising the weak points in your diving.
Aha moments are usually the accumulation of hours of practice to get to that point, and then the smallest thing can be a catalyst for change.
Now Feng was ready to start his level 3 master course, but took some time out to enjoy Labuan Bajo a beautiful area for diving in Flores and a jump-off point for reaching the Komodo islands.
"The level 1 and 2 courses really helped me enjoy my time underwater there, feeling calm in lots of fast currents, whilst other people were panicking. I had more fun not scuba diving, the fish are more relaxed around you freediving, its easier to manoeuvre around underwater with no tank, you have more freedom."
Master courses are usually 4 weeks long and offer the experience of true freedive training. Consistency of training and training volume is where the breakthroughs and adaptations are made, this is where Feng took his Frenzel to 35m.
"I've been working on trying to be more comfortable and efficient as possible with Frenzel to take it deeper and deeper."
Knowing what he knows now, Feng shares his top advice for new freedivers and setting themselves up for success.
"Be more prepared for the start of your course as it can be challenging, get more sleep, eat well, and be hydrated."
"Have patience with yourself, you might not get it on the first dive but maybe the last dive on the last day. Go into level 1 relaxed and open-minded. How you enjoyed your level 1 will translate into whether you will progress and continue freediving."
Great advice from Feng and a real pleasure to see his freediving really progress, it's all about the love of training.
Check out our beginner's intro to Frenzel equalisation here, there is a free dry training plan at the end to help you prepare for your next underwater adventure, even scuba divers would benefit from this tutorial!
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