You had me at “hello AIDA 2”

Sunday, 3rd September 2017 was another freediving milestone for me.

I am finally certified AIDA 2 Star after toughing out the Sunday with free immersion, constant weight, buddying Stefano and rescue skills at Bolkiah Wreck.  I am of course elated that I completed my certification requirements, but I’m more relieved about the fact that I had accomplished a few other things:

  • Did 3 dive sites in one day (Bolkiah Wreck, Oil Rig and Dolphin88 Wreck).  I wasn’t able to get down to the wreck in the first site due to equalization challenges.  Yes I was able to reach 20m in free immersion last time so it was another case of having to remind myself that these things still take time and personal progression is very fluid. Still, 3 dive sites in one day is an accomplishment as I have been feeling the compounding effects of exhaustion the last few days (hence the delay in this post) where we would usually do only 2 dive sites in one day.
  • I enjoyed my fun dives down Oil Rig and Dolphin88 Wreck.  To reach the top of the pipelines of Oil Rig required me to go down to about 8-10m.  I initially struggled with that but had fun with it as I was reminded of why I started freediving in the first place.  I got to say hello to the scuba divers who were previously not exposed to freediving and seeing their reaction (by whipping out their underwater cameras) was priceless.  It reminded me of months ago when I first saw Fun swimming around the scuba divers without the aid of regulators and tanks.
  • At Dolphin88, I got to finally touch down to the 14-15m top part of the wreck.  I didn’t stay long as I have to work on my CO2 tolerance (work on my breath hold and managing the urge to breathe) but it felt so good being able to fin upside down, equalize in a relaxed state and finally see what’s beyond the depths.  Visibility can be said to be pretty good and there was no current that day, so it really was a whole different experience from being anxious about going past the 10m mark in my previous sessions to actually swimming around a submerged ship few weeks later.
  • Being able to buddy my instructor Stefano!  That means being able to watch over another diving comrade and ensuring their safety by meeting them part-way when they’re going up.  In the past, I wouldn’t have known how to do that nor have the confidence to try it.  This time around, it felt natural as we were watching over each other going up and down the sites.
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First open water fun dive experience at past 10m (33feet) around Brunei’s notable wreck sites Oil Rig and Dolphin88.  Brought my GoPro with me but was concentrating on my dives over taking footage.  Expect more photos and videos as I build up my confidence.

I may have pushed myself a little bit as I was holding on to the fact that I could get down to 20m last time.  When I couldn’t this time around, Stefano highlighted that I must have a lot on my mind and told me to just take it easy.  The stress manifested physically as I was spitting out blood and mucus by the end of my course session (first dive).  My trachea must’ve faced some trauma from trying so hard to equalize while my body was not in the relaxed state it should’ve been in.

Above all else, taking care of oneself prior to and during freedives is important. Diving when congested or sick is always a no no (and so is taking decongestants) but that’s a rule of thumb before jumping in the water.  When in the ocean, it really does go a long way to be relaxed and in tip-top physical, mental and emotional shape so as to not risk run ins with minor or major incidents.

Work has been hectic but I’ve been taking it easy by resting in the evenings and drinking lots of water.  My throat is fine now but I had a real awakening from Sunday’s 3-dives day.  I was reminded that progress does not necessarily have to be measured by depth reached or length of breath hold. For me that day progress was being able to really enjoy the dives as they were my first open ocean “deep” fun dives with no courses or training involved. So you can say that I’ve somewhat built up my confidence.

I will be re-joining my original diving crew (Cekli Dive Crew) next Sunday, God Willing.

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