Wowza! What an epic 10 days of free diving in the stunning volcanic lakes, Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine. We are stoked to be back in the rainy weather pattern Sydney is currently experiencing, not!
Earlier this month we flew North, to the stunning, North Queensland. The purpose of this trip was to run an SSI Freediving Instructor Course and develop 4 passionate divers into the next generation of Instructors.
As many of you know, we are very limited for accessible depth on the East Coast of Australia. Just about the only way to achieve anything over 30m (the requirements for Level 1 Freediving Instructor) is to take a boat offshore, but this also presents challenges due to weather, tides, swell, current, and La Nina (the bastard) doesn’t help any of that.
It can be tough enough to get one good day of depth lately, but to get 10 perfect days in a row…it’s nearly impossible.
The obvious solution for our depth problem was to drive an hour inland.
Lake Eacham is a beautiful crater lake nestled by the lush, tropical wilderness. Consistently looking like a sheet of glass – reflecting the sky above, this gem at its deepest point has 65m of depth! No matter the weather conditions this dive site is always calm, and super accessible –less than a 100m walk from the car park to the water’s edge.
This stunning site is fresh water, and our Instructors quickly learned that they need to drop the weight down from what they usually dive with, as freshwater makes you A LOT more negatively buoyant. After diving in the tropical waters of Bali, Instructor Candidate, Curtis Tredway came equipped with his regular weight belt. After going into freefall from 10m and rocketing straight to 30m – then having his legs fire up on the way up…He was quick to learn the difference between fresh and saltwater.
The sensations you get whilst diving Lake Eacham are unique. Surrounding the lake is dense, tropical rainforest. Breathing up, you can dive into a really blissful state of relaxation. There are no waves, no sounds of the reef crackling, all you can hear are distant bird calls, and people splashing along the shoreline.
On weekends Lake Eacham is closed to commercial activities, so our little crew had to migrate to the sister lake, Lake Barrine. Lake Barrine feels even more like a secluded, tropical haven. The only structure you can see from the water is the quaint, Lake Barrine Tea House – great coffee, by the way! You know you are in a tropical forest when you can fill your car boot (literally) with coconuts – props to Kayla for scavenging them!
Now that we have the perfect locations set for the SSI Freediving Instructor Candidates, and you now have a romantic picture of where the course took place – it’s time to get stuck into the training.
The SSI Freediving Instructor Course is an extremely, fun, engaging, but also demanding course.
Taking place over 10 days the course allows the instructor candidates to further expand on their knowledge of freediving and learn how to deliver “Instructor quality” explanations and demonstrations of key requirements of SSI recreational programs. Candidates are tasked with delivering presentations, delivering in-water assessments – in both the pool and open water, whilst also demonstrating their own diving competence through challenging in-water physical assessments. The main objective of this is to help the candidates become more confident and capable in delivering presentations and speaking in front of others, it’s incredible to see how much their confidence transforms from Day 1 to Day 10.
We asked the candidates what their favourite exercise was, and Jane’s response was, “ …the 15m with the 1-minute breath, 5 times. Love a challenge!”. This Assessment is also known as the 5×15 (or 5×20, for Level 2 Instructors) CO2 Dive. Like much of freediving, this one is an emotional journey.
You have 5 dives, each time you must dive to 15m (or 20) and return to the surface, but you must do this with only 1-minute rest between each dive. The purpose of this drill is to induce a high amount of co2 in the instructor, and ensure they continue performing. It’s a good exercise because it simulates the repeat dives Instructors perform on a buoy, with little rest periods between students.
One of the most epic moments of our trip was seeing Stephen (Steve), a laid-back Kiwi, who provides all the laughs, gadgets, and cooking utensils (it’s always beneficial to have one foodie on a trip) attempt his pool requirement.
Bear in mind, Steve comes from the outback. The deepest body of water near his place is his bathtub. Steve had never gone for a PB in a pool before, so it was time for him to not only do a distant swim for the first time, but he also had to hit an 80m requirement, which he was not confident about.
So, he went for it.
Steve swam one lap, that’s 25m. A second, 50m. A third, 75. He approached the 80m mark and hit it…but he kept going. Boom! 4 laps later and he was at 100m. Yet, he still didn’t come up. Steve turned and completed his fifth lap! And when we thought he was done, he turned again…135m later and he surfaced, safely…we were gobsmacked. This country weapon absolutely owned the dynamic and made it look easy. Who knows, we might even see Steve Wallace at Nationals next year – yiew!
After exhausting ourselves on the dives, trying to hit our physical assessment requirements, we kicked back, and indulged on Australia’s best Acai bowl, whilst sharing laughs and going over some theory.
Before wrapping up, here’s a little post that Jane wrote about the Instructor course and Dan’s teaching style, it is too sweet not to share.
“The freediving knowledge that I have gained & growth in this raw and vulnerable journey has been insane! Thank you, Dan for your underwater counselling, for being such a supporting & empowering inspiration. For your leadership style, motivation, and truly engaging knowledge & experience. You are a true star in the freediving community & the way that your share your passion is admirable.”
What makes the Instructor course so incredible, is the people who join it. You are guaranteed to meet like-minded, passionate water-babies. You are going to have tonnes of laughs, as you develop your knowledge, become a freediver and step towards being able to share your passion with others. The course is challenging, it can be frustrating, and emotions can get high – but you will be supported by an epic crew, and one of Australia’s best instructor trainers.
No, this isn’t some biased post written by Dan. It’s from a newly certified Instructor, who has experienced first-hand how life-changing and incredible this experience is!
So if you are a freediver who is interested in taking your diving to new levels, and desire to be able to share your passion with others – this program is for you!