First of all, lets clarify that Apnea Training is a MUST DO for every surfer in the planet, does not matter your Surfing Level. Breath Hold Training is sometimes only related to big wave Surfing, while in my personal experience as a passionate Surfer and Freediving Instructor & Survival Apnea Coach, I have seen massive benefits for people who are new to the sport or intermediate Surfers.
Whether you are a beginner Surfer or a more experienced water person, we all know what it´s like: breath holding after a gnarly wipeout, you can feel the power of the ocean tumbling your body in all directions, it gets darker, anxiety and even panic can kick in. You come up for a breath only to realize there is another wave coming towards you as you are gasping for air, struggling to get precious oxygen in your body before the second wave takes you down.
As Surfers, we are constantly facing mother natures power, with changing context, never facing the exact same challenge twice. These situations can turn challenging and hard to go through if we are not careful with how we deal with them, both physically and mentally.
Apnea Training has shown to be one of the most, if not the best, effective ways to train body and mind resilience, boost confidence and decision making when under stress.
Breath Holding Training teaches us how to master your mind and emotions, how to respond better to challenging scenarios and remain calm and in control in order to preserve the most amount of oxygen possible.
Here are 5 reasons why you should start adding Apnea Training to your weekly schedule if you want to become more Ocean Confident and take your surfing to the next level
1) HEALTHIER & BIGGER LUNGS
A huge part of Breath Holding preparation is actually Breathing Training, which involves exercises to increase Lung Capacity, Vitality, Vo2 max, inspiratory and expiratory strengthening and bunch of other good things for our respiratory system.
As surfers, athletes and humans, we can all highly benefit from having a higher Lung Volume, since it allows better and faster oxygenation, a better Last Breath Capacity before any type of Apnea scenario, a higher rate of recovery & of course the ability to sustain higher intensity exercise for a longer period of time.
2) KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
One of the biggest myths in Surfing is that people believe that, when they finally reach that point when they get an intense urge to breathe, they describe this as “I was out of air/oxygen and almost die”.
First of all, it is important to identify two things here. The most important factor to consider is that the urge to breathe is actually triggered by the accumulation of Carbon Dioxide in our bloodstream, and not the lack of Oxygen. In order to reach what is known as Hypoxia (extremely low levels of oxygen) during a surfing scenario, we would likely be talking about a ridiculously massive wave such as Nazare, Portugal.
There are actually no Hypoxia accidents registered in the Big Wave Surfing Community, the biggest issue seems to be a strong impact, severe injury or traumas, but not a single case of death by hypoxia.
Low levels of oxygen are not something the usual Surfers needs to worry about, since we are usually dealing with short, but intense, breath holding scenarios. Surfing Wipeout even in big solid conditions such as +12 feet are still less than 20 seconds. This does not mean that the experience is going to be exactly “enjoyable”, but it provides information to realize that time is not the issue here nor lack of oxygen, but rather how we decide to deal with the situation in our mind & how to maintain self-control and relaxation despite of the intensity of the scenario.
Watch this insane video of Kai Lenny getting smashed by a set of huge waves at Nazare, staying calm and focused, taking a proper last breath before every breath hold & also pay attention to how long he remains underwater after every wave.
3) BREATHE BETTER, PERFORM BETTER
Nose or mouth breathing? How should I breathe when I paddle? What about the way I should breathe when I get caught in between sets? How do I even breathe at rest or when I go for a run?
I get all of these questions and more pretty much every time I teach a course, and I can tell you that, although there is a huge scientific background behind my final answer, I am going to make it simple for you all:
ALWAYS BREATHE THROUGH YOUR NOSE, BUT….
In some scenarios you will be forced or find more convenient switching to mouth breathing. Mouth breathing seems to be the go-to when in the water, such as taking a deep last breath before a waves breaks on you, taking a deep last breath before a freedive, or just a proper recovery breathing after a breath hold, sometimes the nose is blocked or with some water, which makes the nasal breathing a little bit more stressful. When feeling extremely breathless or when facing an extreme situation, you will have to assess to see which breathing fits the scenario best.
Knowing how to switch from Nose to Mouth and knowing how to manipulate your breath to your advantage according to the scenario you are facing, will allow you to stay confident and focused.
4) RELAXATION & FOCUS DURING PHYSICAL STRESS
As you have read before, you now know that the urge to breathe is not created by lack of oxygen but rather Co2 build up.
The great news about this is that we can train our body to be more resilient to carbon dioxide, which will allow us to delay the urge to breathe sensation and therefore extend our relaxation time. Being more tolerant to carbon dioxide will first build a strong body but most importantly, a strong mind.
Breathing is a very primal need in our life, so it is normal to feel threatened and tense when you do not have the ability to breathe at will, which is why a lot of people lose their calm during a wipeout, even if it is just 5 seconds. The emotions take over the rational mind and anxiety and fear do not allow a proper assessment of the situation.
The only way to stay relaxed and focused during an unexpected breath holding situation, is by TAKING YOUR BODY TO SIMILAR PHYSIOLOGICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL SENSATIONS before the actual situation happens. When you have the tools and knowledge, even in a surprise breath hold you will have the ability to respond and interact better with the scenario, since you have already dealt with discomfort in your body and mind before.
Breath Holding Training allows you to push yourself progressively and skillfully out of your comfort zone while in a safe, controlled environment. This is the KEY CONCEPT about this type of Training: expose yourself in a progressive way, challenge your body and mind in your sessions but do not attempt impossible breath holds because otherwise it is going to turn frustrating. It also goes the other way: if all your sessions feel super easy and you never feel challenged, then you will likely stay in the same place forever.
Hope you enjoyed the read and looking forward to seeing you in one of our upcoming Courses!
If you are interested in knowing more about Apnea Training, check all our activities and Freediving Training programs!Join the biggest Surf Survival Apnea Community in Costa Rica and start experiencing the amazing benefits of Apnea Training in your life!