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Learn to Freedive in Florida: What to Know Before You Go

Updated: May 17, 2021

Improve Your Breath Holding with AIO Guide Tanner Pedersen

When Tanner Pedersen talks about freediving – the act of going under the surface of the water to great depths on a single breath – it sounds like a transcendent experience.

“Freediving brings this peace into your life that’s really hard to get anywhere else, and that’s what makes it so addicting and fun,” Pedersen explains. “There’s this moment every time you’re out there diving where everything slows down, it’s just picture perfect and you’re right there in the middle of the universe.”

Pedersen discovered the sport several years ago. At the time he was living in North Carolina and working a typical 9-5, earning a good income but feeling lost and unhappy. Beneath the surface of the water, he could escape for a few minutes at a time and enter a flow state, becoming completely immersed in the activity. Before long, Pedersen was hooked. He sold all his belongings and moved to a tiny cabin in Williston, Florida, to get his PADI freediving instruction certification.

With the launch of his own freediving school, Pedersen now teaches others how to descend using mindfulness and breathing techniques – an approach that sets him apart for those interested in learning to freedive. His biggest tip for beginners, though? “Just enjoy it,” he says. “Once you learn freediving it can really change your life and the way you look at things outside of the water, too.”

Why Learn to Freedive in Florida?

Two words: perfect conditions. In Florida, you can dive all year round thanks to pleasant weather and water that remains a consistent 72 degrees – a temperature that feels refreshing in the summer and mild in the winter. Speaking of the water, it’s hard to imagine a more ideal freediving site than the crystal clear Florida springs.

“It’s almost like being in Mother Earth's vascular system,” says Pedersen. “We’re diving in the aquifers of Florida, so all this fresh spring water is coming out of the ground and it makes for such a great training environment because you don’t have to worry about currents, or bad ocean conditions.” Another plus: you don’t have to rinse your gear because it’s fresh water rather than salt water.

What to Expect From an AIO Freediving Adventure with Tanner

When you sign up to learn to freedive in Florida Springs with Tanner Pedersen you’ll be given an e-learning code to access online course material covering basics like the physiology of freediving, important safety rules and the history of freediving. Once that’s complete you’ll meet Pedersen in the classroom to go over mindfulness techniques, visualization exercises, and equalization exercises, touching on how to build proper technique and form and what to expect during dives. From there it’s into the swimming pool, where you’ll practice static apnea attempts – holding your breath underwater to build up co2 tolerance and get used to the feelings that are triggered during a buildup of co2 in the bloodstream. On the second day, you’ll be ready to visit the springs and try your first freedive. During the lesson you’ll learn line diving (using a line attached to a buoy to help guide you under water), blackout rescue protocol, adapting your body to depth and progressing your bottom time (the time measured from the moment you go under the surface to the moment you begin your ascent).

What Kind of Freediving Gear Do You Need?

Pedersen recommends a comfortable wetsuit (he’s an ambassador for Riverstone Wetsuits), a pair of fins (he personally wears C4 Indians with 300 foot pockets), a freediving float, mask, nose clip, lanyard and goggles. He was also just picked up by Garmin, and recommends a good dive watch to monitor your depth, bottom time and progress! But there’s no need to bring you own unless you want to – Tanner provides freediving gear for all students to borrow.

How Many Freedives Can You Do in a Single Day?

While Pedersen says the goal is simply to progress over the course of the day rather than aim for a certain number of dives, the average student will complete between 35 and 100. If you get fatigued or too cold you should stop, but other than that you can keep diving all day long without any safety issues.

What’s the Best Way to Improve at Freediving?

“Freediving doesn’t fall into the category of other sports where you have to keep pushing yourself with a ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality,” explains Pedersen. “You can’t will your way to depth, you have to let the water accept you, and your body and mind respond accordingly.”

That being said, you can train with cardiovascular exercises like running, and through apnea exercises like hypoxic squats and planks (isometric moves performed on a breath-hold). You can also train your co2 tolerance with co2 tables, but, says Pederson, “the best way to train is to be in the water more.” To give you something to shoot for, his personal best to date was a 151-ft dive, and his longest static breath hold is a very impressive 5 minutes and 17 seconds.


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