Believe it or not, there is still a lot of social media noise on the non-issue of BASIC skindiving/freediving education. I’ve been mum on that subject for a while now because frankly, I’m over it. After all, I’ve already said my piece, and it’s tedious having to explain my perspective over and over again. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that if people don’t (or refuse to) understand you the first time, they never will.
So yes, I have moved on. So you can just imagine how irritating it is to be woken up in the middle of the afternoon (I work nights) to find out that my little band of freediving misfits have been the subject of a very hostile discussion from some members of a local (read: Cebu-based) freediving group that shall remain nameless. Worse, this discussion was started by people who we spent some time with in the water during a course a few weeks back. They all seemed nice enough with some of them even making friendly overtures after the course, so it’s a real doozy to find out that they’ve been stabbing us in the back for Lord knows how long.
See, this is why I don’t do cliques and absolutely hate joining groups of strangers. There are always—ALWAYS—fake-ass people. They’re unavoidable like the plague. Which is why I prefer building my own tribe, and I have.
(The leader of said group has since apologized on behalf of his errant members, by the way. I feel sorry for him, for having to be friends with people like those. But hey, we all choose the company we keep.)
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s a little backstory for context.
I already wrote before that my boyfriend Ibz, my friend Doyle, and I taught ourselves to dive. With nobody but each other and whatever we could pick up online to guide us, it took the better part of a year for us to really get the hang of it. By the time we really knew what we were doing, we’ve already managed to convince some of the people closest to us (my sister Peachy and her husband Sai; my friends from work, particularly Charly) to join us, so we ended up teaching them, too. And once they learned to dive, they, in turn, started teaching other people. So, in a sense, we HAVE been ‘teaching’ (I’m using the word lightly here) super basic skindiving/freediving for a while now. But it’s only recently that we put a name to our little group and decided to put some structure to our instruction—which really can be more accurately described as nothing more than ‘guidance’ or ‘coaching’.
Throughout this time, we have also been (still are!) expanding our knowledge. However, we can only do so within our means, which really isn’t that much for us worker bees with our shitload of responsibilities, to be honest; thus, options have been limited. So, of course, when the controversial Jeroen Elout came to town with his arsenal of courses and very cheap coach training, we had to take advantage.
So yes, it is true that Jeroen’s was the first real instruction that we’ve had, but by all means, his won’t be the last. And while we did pick up a lot of good stuff from his courses, his tutelage is NOT the be all and end all of our freediving education. Rather, we took the best stuff that we gleaned from our three days with him, pared them down to what we felt we could use in our own sessions, and added our own stock knowledge from our own experiences and research.
We are our own people, after all. And we take pride in our independence as a group and as a brand.
But I digress. Indeed, there is a rationale behind why we don’t charge for our Skindiving FUNdamentals class (except for a small amount to cover the entrance fees and gear rental). Two sessions and almost 20 students later, we are still improving and adapting, constantly adding and taking away. We learn from our students just as they learn from us. And we expect our coaching to evolve as we continue our collective growth as freedivers in terms of knowledge and certifications.
We don’t deign to think that we’re teaching something revolutionary or game-changing here, at this point. Suffice it to say, we’re really just encouraging people to share our love for the sea while providing them a safe haven to discover the possibilities when they dunk their heads underwater—which we all wish we had when we started out.
Initially, I didn’t feel like we needed to explain ourselves. However, I am doing so now not for the benefit of the cowards who couldn’t even criticize us to our faces (and instead resorted to whispering behind our backs like petty housewives, ugh), but rather, for the benefit of friends and friends of friends who have chosen to put their faith in us and learn from us. Each one of them know what we are offering from the onset—the minimums and maximums, the limitations, the whole nine yards. We manage expectations accordingly, and in so doing, we maintain our harmony.
At the end of the day, everyone goes home happy and satisfied, ready to try skindiving again another day. And like I always say in my talk at the start of every session, when that telltale love for the sport and desire to explore greater depths make themselves manifest, then it is the students’ prerogative to invest in formal freediving education from any one of the certifying agencies available. With that said, our work is done.
Do we plan to make a living out of this? Not at all. Like I said, we don’t get paid for coaching, and if we do decide to charge for classes one day soon, it’ll literally be just enough to keep the Dive Seaweed organization going.
How long do we plan to keep this up? Why, as long as there are people who will come to us asking for guidance, of course! As far as I know, only Peachy and Sai want to make careers out of teaching long term. Ibz will likely go on the path of competition, while Charly will want to be a performer and save the seas. As for me, I really just want to go into conservation and work with pelagics.
We each have different reasons why we freedive, and I think that’s what keeps the Dive Seaweed dynamic strong. Because we each have something unique to offer. Because we are passionate. Because we care. I believe all of these translate to what and how we teach. Not even the highest-level certification can top that.
I’m finding that freediving politics is an ugly, ugly thing, and I and the rest of the Dive Seaweed team really don’t want to have anything to do with it. There’s just way too much negativity, which is completely against the whole point of why we dive in the first place.
The freediving elite and wannabe elite (haha) can tear each other apart with all their fatalistic, pretentious discussions and faux concerns, for all we care. We’re just going to continue diving, minding our own business, and doing our own thing because we are Dive Seaweed and we are not jaded enough to have lost sight of what freediving is truly all about—not personal bests, certifications, or bragging rights, but an all-consuming love for the ocean and the joy that comes with being a part of it.
Guess who’s the happier bunch?