Our instructor Emily recently had the opportunity to take her dad Glen through a PADI Freediver course. We interviewed them both to find out what they thought of the course, what an “old guy” with plenty of freediving experience can learn from a formal course, and what their favourite memories of diving together were.
Encounter Freediving (EF): So Emily, what was it like having your dad as a student?
Emily Shaw (ES): It was really nice, he was the one who taught me how to snorkel when I was about 3 years old, so it was nice to be able to return the favour and teach him a few things about freediving. And it was a pretty easy job, he came into the course with good skills, he just a few old habits to break to be a safer and more efficient diver.
EF: And Glen, what was Emily like as an instructor?
Glen Shaw (GS): Excellent, she was very thorough, knowledgeable, patient and ensured that I was totally competent in every aspect of the course training requirements.
EF: Good answer! So Glen, you’ve been freediving for several decades now, did you still get much out of taking a formal freediving course?
GS: Yes, in particular, I surprised myself with how long I could hold my breath on the static apnea component after being trained in the correct techniques and the importance of relaxation before and during the dive. Additionally, I benefitted from learning correct weighting and also being taught the relevant safety aspects of freediving.
ES: We’ve been telling him to use less weight for years, so I’m glad he’s taking note now!
EF: Glen, what was the hardest part of the course?
GS: I didn’t find any aspects overly difficult and found that the objectives of the course were achievable, even to a 65-year-old like me.
EF: And Emily, what did you find to be the hardest part of the course?
ES: The hardest part of the course was probably when Dad was just starting a dive and two blue bottles came through and stung me. It was hard to keep a close eye on him and remove blue bottle tentacles at the same time. But, going from memory, he did a nice dive and I got rid of the blue bottles without him getting stung, so it was all good.
EF: So Emily what was your favourite part of the course?
ES: Just having the excuse to be out on and in the ocean really. We saw dolphins and eagle rays jumping when we were on the boat and had plenty of fish and leopard sharks on the fun dive, so it was a really nice day. And to me that’s what it’s all about – some people get hung up on performance requirements and equalisation techniques and those kind of things, but courses and training are just practice so that you can go away and be a better and safer diver and apply those skills for your enjoyment.
EF: And Glen, what was your favourite part of the course?
GS: The open water dive, where I was able to put into practice what I had learned. Also, it was a very relaxing and enjoyable being out in the marine environment.
EF: Sounds like you’ve developed very similar philosophies to freediving over the years together! Emily, over the past 26 years snorkeling and freediving together, what’s been your favourite memory?
ES: There have been a lot, but probably when we were at Shag Rock (North Stradbroke Island) together, maybe 15 years ago, there used to be this lone dolphin hang out there. One day Dad gets tapped on the thigh and turns around assuming it was me, but when he turned around it was the dolphin. I think it gave him quite a fright at first, so it was pretty funny. And really cool to have a dolphin wanting to hang out.
EF: And Glen, do you have a favourite memory of snorkeling or freediving with Emily over the past 26 years?
GS: There are many. My favourites would be Emily’s love of encounters with marine life, including swimming with whales, dolphins, many species of sharks, manta rays and morays, to name a few. She uses her freediving to take photos of them and has a real passion for the marine environment and the welfare of marine animals. My best of all memory though is when we were on the Great Barrier Reef. We were free diving off a reef where there was a slope to 10m then a vertical wall to 25m and then a continuing slope after that. There was a hole (chimney) about 1.5m in diameter that went from the 10m ledge to the 25m ledge. Emily swam down 25m where she disappeared into a cave which connected to the chimney and eventually appeared out of the top of the chimney in 10 m of water and swam to the surface. She was followed all the way by a number of grey whaler sharks that called the cave home. That was the most exciting diving I have ever observed!
EF: Sounds great! Well we hope that you have many more great freediving experiences together and that you keep diving deeper and safer than ever before.