It was always going to be a challenging course with the weather looking like it was not going to be pleasant with winds predicted to be from the south to south west in excess of 20kts, swell at 2.5m and possible thunderstorms. But as the 6 watermen students sat down for their first theory session, I told them this was why they were here, to learn how their bodies worked in challenging conditions... they all agreed.
The course consisted Brooksy, Devo, Rod, Isaac, Devian and Steve who were all very experienced watermen with many years of experience in all ocean conditions. After asking each of them to share what "spooks" them in the ocean, it was clear that the main focus of the course would be apnea, dealing with high CO2 and sea survival. The weather, as bad as it looked, was going to be a great help in achieving this objective. I was extremely excited to get into it!
The banter started straight away with Brooksy, the extremely honest boxing trainer, taking the lead in the piss taking. By half way through the first day my belly was sore from laughter! It was going to be a very fun course! Unfortunately for Rod, Brooksy took a liking to his Camo spearfishing wetsuit and from that point onward Rod bore the name of "Rambo".
After a solid session of Static training the men finished the first day strongly, all achieving times of 2min45sec and over. But more importantly for me, the team were performing well in their breathing techniques and comprehended the importance of proper breathing for apnea.
I was woken up on the morning of the second day by the wind and rain, it was gale force conditions... I smiled. This is exactly what the men need.
I met the team down at the beach. You know when you have to brace yourself before you open the car door so as it does not rip away from the car body... thats what it was like! So we got geared up, I gave the brief and we got into it... No fins, no weight belts, no boards, pure watermanship... Rescues, resuscitation techniques, ocean swimming, sea survival and apnea. The team performed so very well during the ocean training session which tested the men both mentally and physically in all elements of watermanship. The team were faced with strong winds, rain, currents and swell during the session and had to use all their new learned skills to achieve their objectives.
Day two was finished off with an easy session in the pool were the men explored their ability to perform multiple breath holds with an ever decreasing recovery time. By the end of the session the team all achieved 3min breath holds with only a single minute to recover.
The final day of the Specialist Watermanship Program is always the highlight for the teams... Depth awareness training. This is were the teams can put the two days of watermanship training to the test in the open ocean.
By having a relaxed mind, a positive attitude and by being totally focused on the objectives at hand the men achieved some great performances in the depth training session. The team repetitively dove to depths of up to 15m with ease in the challenging conditions. What was the best thing for me to see, far more important than depth or time, was the fact the men performed all the techniques of watermanship very well; breathing, apnea, streamlining, movement, equalisation, situational awareness and rescue.
Seeing the men looking so good in the water, adopting the new skills and using them well and seeing them with huge smiles on their faces is the best! It means that i have done my job. For its not about numbers, its about having fun and being confident and compotent in the ocean.