Roatan offers freediving & training for Apnea Total, PADI, and SSI. Courses range from introductory to advanced levels. Roatan is the organizer of the Caribbean Cup Freediving Competition. In general, there are three main disciplines in freediving: Immersion (FIM), Constant Weight with Fins (CWT), and Constant Weight Without Fins (CNF). During a competition, athletes compete across all three disciplines to reach greater depths on a single breath of air. The SSI Freediving School in Roatan is backed by Scuba Schools International, which has a long standing tradition of certifying some of the worlds greatest Scuba Divers.
Freediving in Roatan is alive and well. The sport of Freediving continues to grow and Roatan is establishing itself as a worldwide destination for Freediving. Years ago, Columbus inadvertently named the country of Honduras when he encountered a storm, navigated through it, and went on record saying "thank God we are leaving these "depths." (...these "Honduras"). Fast forward to our modern era and today; you'll find the Bay Islands in the same deep waters sailed by Columbus.
PRO TIP: Honduras means "Depths" when translated to English.
SSI Freediving Courses
Sandy Bay, Roatan
SSI FREEDIVE ROATAN
Freedive Roatan is Roatan's first and only SSI Freediving Center. The Freediving Shop sits on an ideal spot in Sandy Bay, on Roatan Island, Honduras. The beach-front facility provides access to a wide variety of freediving environments, but keep in mind that Freedive Roatan is a paddle-out facility.
PRO TIP: Freediving can be part of your Roatan experience. You don't need to be able to hold your breath for long periods. If you like to be free and like to snorkel, freediving might just be a great activity for you.
The confined water, dynamic courses, shallow & deep buoys, are all just moments away! Freedive Roatan offers SSI Freediving Basic, Freediving Level 1 and Freediving Level 2 certifications, as well as specialty courses. Additionally, they offer outings for certified freedivers as well as personalized training for those wanting to perfect their abilities.
This program provides you with the training and knowledge required to safely freedive with a buddy in pool/confined water environments to a depth of five meters. You will earn the SSI Basic Freediving certification after completing this program.
Minimum Age: 10
Academic: Online training
Confined Water: 1-2
Open Water: None
Depth: 5 m. (15 ft)
Duration: 1 Day
This program provides you with the training and knowledge required to safely freedive with a buddy in open water environments to depths of 20 meters. You will earn the SSI Level 1 Freediving certification after completing this program.
Minimum Age: 12
Academic: Online training
Confined Water: 2+
Open Water: 2+
Depth: 20 m. (65 ft)
Duration: 2 Days
This program provides you with the training and knowledge required to safely freedive with a buddy in open water environments to depths of 30 meters. You will earn the SSI Level 2 Freediving certification after completing this program.
Minimum Age: 15
Academic: Online training
Confined Water: 2+
Open Water: 3+
Depth: 30 m. (100 ft)
Duration: 3 Days
ROATAN, THE BIG ISLAND
Roatan is the largest of the Bay Islands. The Bay Islands are part of the Mesoamerican Reef. The islands are surrounded by a reef wall, and the waters in between the reef wall and shoreline of the islands are commonly referred to as "the lagoon." Lagoons are crystal clear and shallow waters. They are rich with fish populations, and they are home to some of the most beautify coral life and coral formations. But just on the other side of the reef wall is an abyss. Waters outside the reef wall drop rapidly to thousands of feet deep. The water here is rich, dark, and blue. In short, the Bay Islands are surrounded by pristine waters the area just around the islands, but just a few swim strokes away from the beautiful beaches, beyond the wall, the ocean drops to hundreds of meters deep. This makes the Bay Islands, and Roatan, in particular, an ideal destination for Freedivers.
Freediving has only recently become a global sport. But that is not to say that it's new. In fact, freediving has been around for as long as man as been around. Some of the more common freediving activities include fishing, photography, rugby, hockey, and snorkeling. In the old days, freediving without the assistance of a mechanical device was the only option available. Later, leather bladders and reeds were invented. Our ancestors harvested the oceans for food and other goods like sponges and pearls.
THE CARIBBEAN CUP
The Caribbean Cup came to be in 2013, and it has become one of the most important freediving competition in the world. World-and-Nation Championships from 5 continents and several countries are held in Roatan. High-level safety teams man the scene and together with distinguished international judges, doctors, and rescue divers professional ensure the safety of each diver.
How do you hold your breath longer? The answer depends on your experience level. There are different exercises which help individuals increase their breath-hold.
This article is written with the Basic Freediver in mind. Once individuals reach a Freediver Level 1 or a Freediver Level 2 and can descend to depths greater than 40 meters and or when a freediver can hold his breath for longer than 4 or 5 minutes, then the freediving techniques vary drastically from one freediving technique or discipline from the other.
It is important to note, that humans do not have a "breath-holding muscle." For this reason, we train our body's carbon dioxide (CO2) tolerance. It is the carbon dioxide in our bodies that trigger our breathing reflex (contractions) and give us that urge to gasp for air. In effect, when we train our bodies to increase our breath-hold, we are essentially training our bodies to operate with low oxygen levels. Put another way round; we are training our bodies to operate with high carbon dioxide levels.
Our bodies are naturally able to build a tolerance for low oxygen levels. Freediving students have reported breath-hold improvements starting from only a few seconds to breath-holds lasting well over 3 minutes in only a matter of weeks. Master Freedivers have taken years to improve increase their hypoxic threshold.
Freedivers also train their Mammalian Dive Reflex. As it turns out, humans have similar physiological capabilities found in aquatic mammals, like whales and dolphins. Our mammalian reflex is trainable.
Freedivers also train their anaerobic processes. Most notably, a free-divers body develops the ability to use lactic acid as a fuel source.
A Static Breath-hold is defined as the period a person can hold his breath without moving.
The current consensus is that CO2 tables are ineffective. But some still argue they still provide some assistance in developing a longer breath-hold. CO2 tables are one way to improve on your static breath-hold. Using a CO2 table will help you maintain the same breath-hold time while allowing you to shorten the recovery period between breath-holds. CO2 tables often represent opposite values of that of an O2 table.
A breath-hold table represents a sequence of breath holds, in which over the period of the breath hold; freedivers are increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in their bodies, depleting the oxygen in the body, or both.
Independently of what table you use or don't use, the main point in these exercises is to stress the human body and force it to adapt to either higher carbon dioxide or lower oxygen levels.
A preferred static breath-hold exercise consists of eight consecutive breath-holds in which freedivers must start a new breath-hold every four minutes. Each person decides when they want to start breathing again and the remaining time before the next 4-minute mark is considered to be the recovery time.
For example: If you held your breath for two minutes, you'd have two minutes to breath before the next four-minute mark, at which point you'll have to start a new breath-hold. If you held your breath for three minutes, then you’d have one minute for your recovery before the next breath-hold begins.
Once you’re able to do most of the holds with only a one-minute recovery, and three minutes of breath-holding, then increase the interval by one minute. This means you will begin a breath-hold every five minutes.
It is important to note that an improved time in your static breath-hold does not necessarily improve one's ability to dive. But longer static breath-holds do improve relaxation, which in turn, produces better freedivers. Static breath-holds help divers gain more control over the body when it is experiencing high levels of carbon dioxide, and it allows this a safe and controlled environment.
One added benefit to static breath-hold is that they expose our bodies to carbon dioxide contractions.
Ultimately, the best way to improve as a freediver is to freedive. But if getting out in the Roatan open water isn't always an option, a good alternative is to swim a set distance in a pool with a set period of recovery in between breath-holds.
As a training exercise, you can choose a distance you are comfortable with, let's call it 25m. You then choose a time, let's call it 1-minute. Then swim for 1-minute a distance of 25-meters and use the remaining time as your recovery time. A nice benefit to this type of freediving training is that athletes develop the right finning speed and technique. Finning too quickly can result in being winded. But finning too slowly doesn't proper you as far. For this reason, this exercise will help you find the right pace for your underwater swim.
The Cooper Test
What is the Cooper Test? The Cooper test is a test of physical fitness. It was designed by Kenneth H. Cooper in 1968 for US military use. In the original form, the point of the test is to run as far as possible within 12 minutes.
Another great way to increase your breath-hold and improve your apnea tolerance is by training using the Cooper Test. It trains both your CO2 tolerance and your hypoxic threshold. In this exercise, athletes will swim for as long as they can underwater for a set period. When the twelve-minute mark runs out, you take that final distance that you swam as your score.
Pool training has its benefits, but you have to do it with a certified dive buddy. Many people might not have access to a pool or a dive buddy. And for them, the static training outlined above might be a better solution. Another option is to consider doing apnea walks.
Apnea walks are exactly what they sound like, you hold your breath, and you walk. How fast should you walk? Well, you try to replicate your finning speed with your walking speed. Like finning, you'll need to find the right velocity to ensure you don't become too fatigued or that you move too slowly.
How often should you train?
Twice a week is good, but no more than three times per week. Training breath holds in excess can start to deplete your iron and hemoglobin levels in your blood, so just take it nice and slow, and make sure that your body always has enough time for recovery. In all these exercises, you never want to push yourself too far. Keep them at an intensity level that’s challenging and relatively easy.
A level in which you can succeed again and again and again. It’s very easy for people to burn themselves out mentally from doing too many of these exercises. Remember that Freediving is meant to be relaxing and enjoyable.
Meet the Professionals
"I had to concentrate pretty hard on that dive, just on the way down the equalizing. That’s been my big problem recently, is running out of air to equalize, I’m not managing it properly in the lower third of the decent. You’re going to see me on the camera, I smacked into the baseplate pretty hard, just because I was concentrating very hard on equalizing."
"But, once I was there and got a tag, coming up was pretty straightforward, it was good controlled ascend. After I got to the bottom, I was feeling comfortable from then on pretty much."
"I’m very happy about my dive, it was 126 meters, and it was gold medal. We have both, me and David Mullins, gold-medaled today. For me, I was starting second after Dave, so I had a bit of a higher heart rate when I heard that he did the dive, so I had a bit more pressure on me, knowing that I had no room for mistake, I needed to take the tag and I needed to have a white card for sure."
"That was a bit more stress. I tried to calm myself down on the way to the bottom, saying, “Okay, we’re just two friends who do the same really deep dive.” I was trying to reverse my thinking to make it like a game. I think it worked. Overall, it was really enjoyable and a good dive."
"Today I did the 101 in Constant Weight; this is not my first discipline. I am a [unclear 0:03:17] swimmer, and I’m here to focus on the Constant No Fin, but it’s very nice to do a dive like this this morning for the confidence, and I will see what happens in the next step in the next discipline."
"So, we’re done for today. Tomorrow we have a little break; it’s a rest day for everyone. The day after starts with Constant No Fins for Women, the following day Constant No Fins for Men. This is the most demanding discipline because it’s unaided. You have to swim down andd back up without using the rope and not wearing any fins. So, best of luck to everyone and thank you for watching."
"When you look into the blue, your deeper fears they surface, so you have to work on yourself to overcome feeling more and freer. At this point, you can go deeper."
"When I’m breathing up on the line, just before my dive, I’m praying for God just to let me relax, take that anxiety away. As soon as I start my dive, it goes away. It’s a beautiful setup, and it’s the most spectating that I’ve ever seen at a competition, so it’s really, really cool. Everybody is welcome to come out and watch. You can watch from the top of the boat, you can get in the water and see the competitors, or you can go downstairs in the boat and watch through a glass, the underwater scene, the actual dives."
"Before the dive, I’m just trying to find a place for relaxation, to be able to disassociate yourself from those negative thoughts. During the dive itself, the ocean washing away all those kinds of thoughts, and it’s a lot easier to get into an empty mind space. You just want to be on autopilot, distinctive movements, and decisions. "There’s an ocean below me, and I want to go as deep into it as possible."
"I think it’s a mix of things; competition, depth, training, the challenge to train deeper every year. But, also the tribe that we have in free diving, what it means, my main passion to go around and meet other people as the same passion as me. Free divers are always looking for the best conditions. This is probably one of the best places in the world for deep training. To do a deep dive, we need to have it set up with professional people, with safety divers, with counterweights, with sonar, with all the equipment that we need to improve our depths."
Dr. JOHN SHEDD
"Here in Roatan, the conditions are perfect, the water’s calm, the water’s clear."
"We have some incredible safety protocols that we incorporate and some of the worlds’ best safeties that I’ve ever worked with."
"The setup is great. The idea of the bottom glass boat is tremendous. It’s very important to allow other people to know about our sport."