Marine Biologist/Surfer/AccesSurf Volunteer

Photo: Hawaii Eco Divers

The Inertia

“You do not start apnea training until you have the urge to breathe.” Ricardo Taveira reminded us of this for perhaps the 10th time while my classmates and I were lying on our backs a minute into breath hold training, trying to think of anything other than breathing.

In its simplest terms, Apnea is holding your breath (once you stop inhaling). We do not actually have an urge to breathe immediately when we close our airway. We only feel the urge to breathe when the CO2 levels in our body increase. Eventually, that CO2 increase will trigger diaphragm contractions, which is actually when the urge to breathe sets in. If you have the proper techniques and knowledge, you can resist that urge to breathe safely for a surprising amount of time.

I am not a big wave surfer, but I have experienced my fair share of terrifying hold downs. Some of them probably only lasted seven seconds, but they were enough to make me paddle back to the beach once I resurfaced. I will probably never surf Waimea or any of the other notable giants but I did want to gain more confidence and competence in my water skills so I decided to enroll myself in an apnea and survival training course.

This course was designed by Ricardo Taveira, master diver trainer, big wave surfer, and owner of Hawaii Eco Divers on the North Shore of Oahu, with only one goal in mind: to increase your breath hold ability in intense situations underwater, all while remaining calm and in total control of your mind. We learned different techniques of apnea and breathing exercises to strengthen and increase the capacity of the lungs. The training aids students in dealing with extreme situations where the mind control and calmness are the main factors for survival. In addition to apnea theory and breathing techniques to maximize breath hold, we learned High Surf Risk Management in order to recognize, minimize or avoid unnecessary risks found in the surf zone. In Hawaii Eco Divers Apnea and Surf Survival course, I learned a lot more than I had anticipated. I gained overall confidence, increased my breath hold, learned all about mind control, a new way of breathing, and was reminded of what our amazing bodies are capable of. One great little perk is now that I’ve attended the course I’m welcome to return as many times as I want for a refresher and continued training free of charge.

Photo: Hawaii Eco Divers

By the end of the two-day course, every student learned to hold their breath for three minutes, with many going as long as five minutes during static apnea exercises. We also performed many dynamic apnea exercises by simulating real situations encountered in the surf zone, like getting caught inside during multiple wave sets with short recovery/breathing time, two wave hold downs, and underwater disorientation. Every student now has the key tools and knowledge to rely upon if any of their buddies has an accident in the surf.

I would encourage anyone who spends significant time in the ocean to take this course, train, and gain a greater understanding of what their body is capable of. Train for your friends, for your family, and even the random people you share a lineup with; they are somebody’s father, mother, brother, sister, son, or daughter, too. You never know when an emergency situation will come up in the water. Now, what if you faced that situation knowing what to do and having the confidence to act? You could save someone’s life.

For more information about the course visit the site The next apnea & surf survival course on Oahu will be October 14th/15th & 21st & 22nd. This course is free for lifeguards. 


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