I was fortunate to be one of six lucky club members to spend four days in Lake Taupo on an AIDA 4 star course. Instructor and world champion freediver William Trubridge gave us some tips on stretching, training, and depth adaptation. We learned that RELAXATION really is key to a successful max performance, and now I have a better understanding of the science and physiology behind this. We also got some hard biological facts and evidence that explain why CO2 is your friend. Not sure that's going to make the CO2 drills any easier to complete but at least now I understand the benefit they can have on your overall performance.

Most of us arrived Wednesday evening and picked our beds for the week. Us six AFC members were joined by six other divers from around New Zealand, so there were plenty of new faces. We mostly did our own things for dinner and you could sense the nervous energy in the bach.

Thursday morning was a bit windy and the lake was choppy, so we opted for pool training. I was a bit nervous about having to knock out all the pool requirements in one day, especially as my pool suit was ripped and out of commission. It turns out that training without a wetsuit or weights in the pool is one of Will's techniques for training, so I fit right in! Thursday evening we had a group study session, reviewing the AIDA 4 manual in preparation for Friday's written exam. It was helpful having Jack Hamilton, resident uni student, to help quiz us and remind us of the basic study skills and techniques I've forgotten since graduation.

Friday was day 1 of depth training and we made it a shore dive. We swam about 200m out from three mile bay (or thereabouts) and attached the depth rigs to the 5 knot marker. We all smashed out our rescues and tow requirements for the course - what a work out! I got to show off my synchro talent by getting enough height to give rescue breaths while towing my diver back to the boat. Definitely a tiresome feat! Friday afternoon, we all passed the written exam and then had afternoon theory sessions. That evening there was a much more relaxed feeling in the bach after having passed most of the course requirements. With everyone getting to know each other better, we had shared dinners and stories.

Saturday morning we started with an intensive stretching session, which included some stretches for no fins and depth. I could feel it the next day! We took the boats out to get a bit more depth and anchored at around 50m. Most people completed any outstanding course requirements on this day, so we were all buzzing when we got back to shore. We had another afternoon theory session where we learned a lot, including the benefits of a 'no warm-up dive' for max attempt/ performance. We all had dinner out, including the instructors. It was great to get to know everyone outside of diving.

Sunday morning we repeated that stretching session - I'm already getting lazy but my goal is to keep it up at least a few times a week. They are fantastic stretches! We took the boats out again and most of us tried a 'no warm-up dive' for the first time. The line was set to 32m (my PB at this stage was 30m) and I was the first diver on the line. AFC's very own AIDA instructor Brad James was the coach on our rig and he helped get me in the right mindset for the dive: No goals, just a nice comfy warm-up dive. I normally set the line to about 15m for my first warm-up, but made it all the way to 31m. A new PB and a great first experience with no warm-up max attempts.

The group started to disband on Sunday evening/ Monday morning, no longer strangers. Lots of hugs and see you laters, but definitely not good byes. I think we were all inspired by the course and expect to see most of these faces again at depth competition and other events. A few of us stayed on Monday and drifted down the Waikato river for a bit of fun after all the structured training of the weekend.

What a great course and experience. Lots of memories and learnings to take away and share with my fellow club members. Look out Panmure - we're going to be doing a lot more CO2 drills! I've already started putting my learnings to practice and organizing some of my notes and random thoughts from the course. You can check out my blog and Power BI post where I plot the depth/pressure changes and potential gains you can make in depth with just a few small tweaks and and techniques: Freediving for Depth: Value Of Learning Advanced Equalization Techniques

A huge thanks to Freediving New Zealand and Nate for making this happen and to Auckland Freediving Club and FNZ for subsidising it. Will was assisted by Brad James, Kristine Zipfel and John Wright.

Photo credit: Tran Lawrence