One of the great privileges of living on the road, is the ability to take the time to explore passions, new and old. After our time in Baja, we got a bit hooked on diving and spear fishing. Halfway through the mainland, we decided we wanted to get some formal training to be safe in the water and to improve.
We found a great instructor with Julien Borde and Pranamaya Yoga & Diving. Julien is French, but relocated to Mexico over 10 years ago to work as a dive instructor. He has more certifications than would fit in this post, but the main thing is that he is a certified free diving instructor, an international freediving judge, and can dive to more than 100 ft. on a single breath.
We signed up for the AIDA 2* course. AIDA is the PADI of free diving. The course is structured over 3 days, and Julien uses the natural cenotes in Mexico as the classroom. A cenote, is a freshwater sinkhole in the ground. In Mexico there are hundreds, if not thousands of these, and they are all interconnected via an underwater river system that leads to the sea. Some are only a few yards across, and others are caverns spanning football fields. They also vary dramatically in depth, the shallowest we have been in is 15ft, but the deepest has been over 400 ft.!
The first day is centered around theory and breathing techniques. This was an easy day. We learned a ton about the body and the physiological demands of diving. Probably the most interesting tidbit for me, was that the body doesn’t have an oxygen meter. It instead has a very sensitive CO2 meter. The body knows when to breath based on the levels of CO2 vs being low on oxygen. The big “test” on the first day was to learn to hold our breath for at least 2 minutes in the water. This was tough. The urge to breath becomes so strong that it almost hurts. But the fascinating physiological truth is that you can’t hold your breath long enough to pass out. Your brain will just override you and force you to breath. Also, there are a series of physiological warnings that happen to let you know when you are in the danger zone. One of them are a series of diaphramic contractions. When the CO2 level really rises, your diaphragm will start to involuntarily contract. The first time this happens, it’s quite startling. The nice thing though is that its telling you, you are about at the 50% point of your oxygen. So you have more time to stay below, but should think about coming up. Holding your breath to your first contraction is HARD. Pat and I both managed a 2-minute breath hold, and neither of us had a contraction!
The next two days were spent in amazing cenotes, practicing techniques and getting more and more comfortable gaining depth and time under the water.
The last day was a highlight as we shed the exercises for some swimming and diving. We grabbed the GoPro & our new underwater housing and took the plunge. The footage isn’t great (as we weren’t filming thinking we would edit something) but it was fun to get a feel for filming in a new medium, and I think with a little more time in the water, we can start to get some pretty good stuff.
Overall this was one of those experiences that we couldn’t have seen ourselves doing before a journey like this, but now that it has opened a new dimension to our life on the road.