I love how raw the south west is; surf pounding the rugged coastline, howling offshore winds, swell lines stacked to the horizon, deep blue off shore waters teaming with marine life. There is no better training ground for waterman and waterwoman, with the option of indulging in all the varieties of ocean frivolities. 

 A bit of fun post training at canal rocks, Yallingup. Photo courtesy of Christian McLeod.

A bit of fun post training at canal rocks, Yallingup. Photo courtesy of Christian McLeod.

Its for this reason that One Ocean decided to pack up shop in Byron Bay and head to the south west for a few months and bring Watermanship Training to the home of Australian big wave surfing.

One Ocean has now set up shop with professional waterman Russell Ord. Russell attended a Specialist Watermanship Program in Dec 2013 and performed very strongly. He was, in turn invited to become an ambassador for the company and since that time his watermanship skills and knowledge have grown remarkably.

 Russell Ord in his element. Photo courtesy of Trent Slatter.

Russell Ord in his element. Photo courtesy of Trent Slatter.

To be honest, i was pretty nervous about standing in front of the biggest chargers in WA and sharing the knowledge that i have gained over the past 10 years, “what could i teach someone who surfs 15ft south west slabs? At the same time I was very excited to see what these amazing watermen would achieve with this new learned knowledge.

 South West Slab. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord

South West Slab. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord

I often get asked what the purpose of teaching these courses is? To survive a heavy wipeout? To be able to take multiple waves on the head? To learn how to hold your breath? 

Sure, the above mentioned are some of the reasons why people are motivated to come along to the programs, but for me, its about seeing and experiencing the ocean from a different perspective. When you are completely at peace in your environment, when you are confident in your ability to handle the unknown, your perception of that environment is very different to that of a mind full of anxiety and worrisome thoughts about something that might happen.

You notice every detail, every shimmer of light, every shade of blue, every swell lump and ocean movement. The way you ride your craft changes also, to that of fluidity, composure and calmness. To put it simply, you enjoy yourself more, you get a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment that leaves you with a huge felling of achievement. 

For this reason, the courses are suited for everyone, at all levels of watermanship ability, not just the big wave crew. 

 The team relaxing on the surface, feeling comfortable 2km out to sea off the coast of South West WA during a Specialist Watermanship Program. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord. 

The team relaxing on the surface, feeling comfortable 2km out to sea off the coast of South West WA during a Specialist Watermanship Program. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord. 

So far there has been 14 watermen who have attended the programs since the 6th March, all of these guys have been such amazing people to train with and all of them having had different motivations for attending the programs. These span from wanting to learn to handle a wipeout better, wanting to learn how to swim better, to overcome fears of sharks, to learn how to rescue or to learn to understand how their mind works in a stressful situation.

From the feedback that i have had to far, all these watermen had achieved, to some level, their objective. That makes me feel so very happy. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to share knowledge and my passion.

 The team feeling comfortable to pose for a photo at depth. Photo courtesy of Christian McLeod.

The team feeling comfortable to pose for a photo at depth. Photo courtesy of Christian McLeod.

So I guess you are interested to hear how the guys have been going? Before i let you know, I want you to understand the numbers are meaningless if the way you achieve these numbers is not right. For example, I would much rather see a student achieve a 2min breath hold with perfect breathing and feeling very clam than a student achieving a 4min breath hold with bad technique and feeling stressed. With the correct technique and a calm mind the results will come, without much effort at all.

All the students on the courses have achieved static breath holds of 3min and over, and these statics have been achieved passively, with no tension or “pushing through” anything. Some of the students have been diving to depths of over 25m and some diving to 20m in body board fins. Again these free immersion and constant weight dives have been done calmly and with comfort.

 Avid tow surfer Dean O'Shaughnessy ascending from an 18m dive off the coast of South West WA. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord.

Avid tow surfer Dean O'Shaughnessy ascending from an 18m dive off the coast of South West WA. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord.

The teams have performed strongly and with great aquaticity in the ocean training sessions, which they are subjected to hours of open water training where they learn to deal with increasing levels of CO2 whilst remaining clam and focused.

The teams have also performed strongly in the rescue scenarios where they have to retrievee casualties from a depth of 10m, perform the correct rescue techniques, tow the casualties to safety and then perform basic life support.

On the final day of the course the teams have to perform a series of depth training exercises 2km off the coast of South West WA. The guys have been diving very strong with the last group impressing me with their ability to remain calm and focused dealing with the huge chop and gale force winds.

 Irish surf photographer, Christian McLeod feeling comfortable exploring a ship wreck in the South West. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord.

Irish surf photographer, Christian McLeod feeling comfortable exploring a ship wreck in the South West. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord.

Putting the breath hold aside, according to the feedback, the 2 best things that the students have enjoyed learning the most is:

  1. How to train properly. Training for a waterman is very unique, there are not to many sports out there which require such a broad range of fitness, strength and technique. The key? Be specific with your training and train in the stimulus!
  2. How to breathe properly, especially after a wipeout. There is so much information on the internet, from so many sources, and most of it is incorrect and very dangerous. It makes me feel good to know that the guys are doing it right and doing it safe.

 

Some of the guys from the courses been have already put their new learned skills to the test in the last swell we had from the 18th - 20th March. It was so rewarding to hear the stories of multiple wave hold downs and huge swims being performed with no stress. It really is a highlight for me, to hear the stoke in the lads voices after they achieve something new, over come a mental block or gain a new level of confidence.

 Professional waterman Russell Ord putting his skills to the test while shooting at "the right". Photo courtesy of Gordon Becker.

Professional waterman Russell Ord putting his skills to the test while shooting at "the right". Photo courtesy of Gordon Becker.

I am really looking forward to the next few months of training, and observing the perceived levels of watermanship endurance being broken, revealing a new level of aquaticity and confidence.

The training that will take place is not only going to occur during the courses but also in the weekly training sessions that are happening, in which all ex-students are encouraged to attend in an aim to continue to increase their watermanship ability and connect a like minded group of watermen and waterwoman. 

 

 Enjoying a light free immersion dive at the end of a depth awareness session during a Specialist Watermanship Program. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord. 

Enjoying a light free immersion dive at the end of a depth awareness session during a Specialist Watermanship Program. Photo courtesy of Russell Ord. 


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