PFI Freediving Courses
with Lance Lee Davis
The Performance Freediving International program is one of the most comprehensive in the world. It's no accident that PFI training is used exclusively by the US Naval Special Warfare Group, Red Bull pro athletes, spearfishermen, and a majority of US National Freediving record holders....
ABOUT THE FIRST LEVEL FREEDIVER CLASS: Learn to freedive! Whether your focus is spearfishing, underwater photography, stunts, fitness, or simply fun, the PFI first level Freediver course is a perfect place to start. Students at the Freediver level will dive up to 66 feet (20M) and do breathholds of up to 4 minutes. The two day course consists of classroom instruction, swimming pool drills, and at least two sessions of ocean diving. We emphasize safety and performance techniques applicable to seasoned veterans and new divers, aimed at increasing bottom times and comfort in the water. We will also cover fundamentals of apnea physiology/training, as well as local Southern California dive conditions and best practices.
Even brand new divers, who prior to the class thought 'I could never do that', typically finish the first level class with static breathholds of 2+ mins and dives to 30' and deeper, all the way up to our max depth of 66'. Because of the amount of individual attention I give--I am shadowing you on every dive to keep you safe and also to watch your technique--more experienced divers will still be challenged; I provide tips and feedback appropriate to your own individual level. I keep student/teacher ratios very low, I will never be in the ocean with more than 6 students at a time.
ABOUT THE BREATH-HOLD SURF SURVIVAL CLASS: Do you work or play around big surf, extreme currents, rapids or waterfalls? Do you want to become more comfortable with hold-downs and depth? The PFI Breath-Hold Surf Survival course could be just the thing for you! Students will gain a greater understanding of the physiology of breath-hold, how to train safely to extend breath-hold, how to prepare for a breath-hold emergency when you have little to no warning, as well as self rescue and buddy rescue techniques. This four day class involves a mix and of classroom, pool simulations, and open water training.
ABOUT THE INTERMEDIATE FREEDIVING CLASS: This is a 40M (133') course. I'm reallly excited to be offering this class; most of my favorite 'untouched' southern California dive and hunting spots fall into this range, and divers who travel to hunt or work in other locales where prime diving starts deeper will also benefit. Students will dive up to 40M (133'), and we put no time limit on length of your pool static. I shadow you within arms reach on all your ocean dives, same I do for our first level divers. Safely diving deeper in our waters takes application, focus, and development of new skills. I will usually contact divers who sign up for this course in advance to check in and make sure they have the basic tools in place to get the most out of this offering. This is a four day class. Sometimes I offer the course on a Thur-Sun schedule, and sometimes I split it across two weekends. Class prerequisites are PFI level 1 or equivalent experience--if you are an experienced spearo with no formal training, this may be the course for you. Continue reading or contact me for more information.
ABOUT THE FREEDIVER + HUNTING CLASS: This class is geared for newer divers who wish to hunt, either with a speargun or camera. It includes a regular first level, 'Freediver' PFI certification class, as well as some additional classroom which covers hunting strategy, best practices, and local fish ID. Students will also have a unique opportunity to run via my boat to local kelp forests and reefs for a half day guided dive in groups of two. I usually offer this class during the winter and it's a great class but new hunters as always will gain invaluable skills by just taking the regular 'Freediver' class if this class is not available.
PRICES: The first level, 'Freediver' class price is $450. Intermediate classes are $800. Breath-Hold Surf Survival classes are $800 and the Freediver + Hunting class is $600.
IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING CORONAVIRUS: AS A CONDITION OF PARTICIPATION IN THE CLASS, ALL STUDENTS MUST UNDERGO A CORONAVIRUS TEST WITHIN 4 DAYS OF CLASS START, AND SUBMIT PROOF OF NEGATIVE RESULT TO INSTRUCTOR PRIOR TO CLASS START. NO EXCEPTIONS. IN ADDITION, INDIVIDUALS (WITH THE EXCEPTION OF MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS AND FIRST RESPONDERS) HAVING CONTACT WITH ANYONE TESTING POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS WITHIN 14 DAYS OF CLASS START WILL BE UNABLE TO PARTICIPATE IN CLASS. As always, participation in any class activity is voluntary. By registering and participating in this class you hereby acknowledge that strict social distancing procedures may be impossible to follow during a normal freediving certification class such as this, and despite best efforts of instructors and vendors you assume any and all risk of contracting a communicable disease such as Covid - 19. Free tests are available from the County of Los Angeles, please plan ahead and make time for this as you may need to schedule it a day or two before taking it, and results can take a day or two, although often are available the next day. Instant result tests are available from various vendors and most clinics throughout the city, for a fee. Class size is limited to 6 students plus instructor. Instructors will be following the same pre-class testing protocol as students.
Register for an upcoming class:
*** I usually post my class schedule a few months out, teach year round, and typically offer at least two classes per month. If the link to the class in the page shows 'OUT OF STOCK' the class is sold out. Contact me if you want to be notified as soon as new classes are live, or to be added to the first come first served wait list of sold out classes. New 2021 classes will start in March. ***
Your instructor, Lance Lee Davis: "I have been swimming in the ocean since infancy and swam competitively for 11 years. While I do hold recreational SCUBA and nitrox certifications, my passion has always been freediving. My deepest freedives to date are 242' (74M), constant weight without fins, as well as 80M done constant weight with bi-fins. Official records I currently hold include the US National Record in CNF at 72M, as well as one apnea related Guinness World Record. I love seafood and have many thousands of hours hunting southern California waters, year round, day and night. I've had the good fortune to train alongside Olympians and world record holders, been featured as a diver/swimmer in advertising for numerous international brands, and I look forward to sharing the proven techniques of the PFI program with you!"
WHO CAN TAKE THE FIRST LEVEL CLASS, AND WHAT IS THE CLASS FORMAT?
For our first level class ('Freeediver'), you must be able swim. You don't need to have perfect swimming technique but you must be able to tread water unassisted for 5 minutes, and finish a 100 yard swim on the surface. Ocean or competitive experience—surfing, SCUBA, spearfishing, swim/synchro, or water polo is helpful but not required, and many strong freedivers started out in the PFI program with nothing more than a love of the water and willingness to learn. Freediving can be odd sport; much of physiology behind breath-hold is counter-intuitive, and some great athletes struggle with it while other people who are not considered particularly athletic excel at apnea. For certain pre-existing health conditions, a physician's signature is required before you can take the class. Students between the ages of 12 and 16 years must take the class at the same time as a parent or guardian.
Class format is a mix of classroom, pool, and ocean. Classroom instruction takes about 6 hours. We will go over safety and accident prevention, proper breathing and equilization techniques, equipment, basic freediving physiology, and training tips. Pool is usually 3.5 hours. Here we begin applying skills covered in the classroom, practice static breathholds, as well as safety and rescue drills, and drill performance techniques in preparation for our ocean sessions. Ocean session are 2.5 hours long, and unlike many other schools which offer only a single ocean session, I offer two or three ocean sessions. I am always right there with you, within arms reach, ready to assist and offering constructive feedback on every single ocean dive.
Exact schedule may vary but for the Freediver level classes, expect to be in the classroom and pool all day on the first day starting in the AM, which will be a long but not physically strenuous day. On following days we will do our ocean dives, and they will be shorter days. For the intermediate classes we will do a mix of classroom and pool for the first two days, and the last two days will be ocean diving.
I SIGNED UP FOR A CLASS, WHAT KIND OF TRAINING SHOULD I DO BEFORE THE CLASS?
Make sure you are equalizing your ears using the Frenzel technique. If you have a background in scuba and have always just cleared your ears by wiggling your jaw handsfree, I still recommend learning a proper Frenzel, since kicking head down while holding your breath as a freediver, your prior technique may not work. If you aren't sure, take a look at this blog entry. Breathhold training prior to a first level class is not necessary. If you're comfortable with doing some laps in a pool on the surface, this is probably the most beneficial exercise you can do for freediving. And if you don't much care for lap swimming, that is perfectly fine, just being in reasonable cardiovascular shape will be helpful. During the class we will learn safe training protocols for breathhold training in water, as well as very effective exercises for increasing breathhold for real world ocean diving.
WHO CAN TAKE THE INTERMEDIATE LEVEL CLASS?
To take the Intermediate class, you must have been certified at the Freediver level by me or any other PFI instructor, OR have equivalent experience. This can be a level 1 certification with another recognized freediving agency (FII, SSI, AIDA), or you can be self taught, i.e., if you are a spearfisherman who is comfortable in the ocean, can hunt at 25'+ and make a touch and go or emergency dive to 50' or beyond you would be a good candidate. If you have equivalent experience and want to take my Intermediate level class, please contact me first. Safety is still at the heart of this class as well, and all the safety concepts and drills from our first level class are reviewed and expanded on.
Format of the Intermediate class is similar to the first level class, but is 4 days instead of two. In addition to the possibility of deeper dives, we spend more time in the classroom and working on dry training, and we do an additional pool session. We go much deeper into physiology of freediving and spend much more time working on advanced equalization techniques, stretching exercises, and deep safety protocols. I also like to specifically work some finer aspects of finning and swimming technique as it applies to deep diving, as well as dive strategy and application of pro techniques for particularly challenging 'real world' diving or hunting.
If you do not already own gear, the shops who host my classes do rent freedive specific gear to my students. There is typically time to purchase and rent equipment on our first day of class, during the lunch break. I am available to answer questions prior to the class.
Required for southern California ocean classes:
– Wetsuit. Two piece open cell suit with integrated hood, either 5mm or 7mm is strongly advised. Typical SCUBA and surfing wetsuits are not open cell--the inside of the suit will have a stretchy nylon lining layer. The inside of an open cell suit will be a bare spongy rubber (although some may have a 'coating'). If you have a warm lined wetsuit, it should be okay, but if you are picking up a new wetsuit for class, definitely purchase an open cell suit. Open cell is noticeably warmer, more flexible, and more comfortable to wear for long periods. They are intended to fit very snug, and you will need to use lube to put them on. Most SCUBA and surf shops will not stock open cell wetsuits, only freediving and spearfishing specialty shops.
– Mask and snorkel. Low volume mask and simple J snorkel are advised.
– Fins. Freedive specific long fins are recommended, but scuba fins are okay at the Freediver level. Monofins are allowed if you also bring bi-fins. If you are buying your first pair of long fins, I would strongly advise buying a fin in either 'soft' or 'medium' stiffness.
– Weight belt and weights. A rubber weight belt with hard lead weights in 1lb or 2lb increments is best for freediving. Nylon belts and soft weight pouches can be used at the Freediver level but are not ideal. We will get your weights dailed in during the class, but most adults end up wearing between 6lbs to 14lbs of lead with a 5mm wetsuit.
– Dive socks and gloves. For exposure protection 2mm+ thickness dive socks and gloves are recommended.
- A dive watch is nice but not required.
We will discuss gear in more detail during the class. For the Freediver level class, freedive specific fins, mask, and weight belt are recommend but not required. If you own non-drysuit SCUBA gear appropriate for our local water it will do. If you are buying equipment for the class we recommend freediving specific gear because you can always use freediving gear for SCUBA, but not all SCUBA fins or surf wetsuits are great for freediving. The common southern California 3/2 surfing wetsuit is usually only warm enough for freediving during our warmest months—mid summer thru early fall.
What thickness wetsuit? Off the southern California coast, surface water temps may dip to mid 50F's in the winter, and get over 70F during some days in the late summer. For reference, most 'competition' swimming pools are around 78F, with most health club swimming pools warmer, usually between 82F – 88F. The thicker the wetsuit, the warmer it will be. However, thicker wetsuits can make freediving more difficult, and most divers opt for the thinnest suit in which they will be comfortable. Most southern California freedivers wear a 5mm open cell wetsuit with integrated hood for the majority of the year. Some divers may wear a 7mm open cell during our coldest months—late winter thru early spring—and some divers prefer wearing a 7mm year round.
WEATHER AND CANCELLATIONS:
We are blessed in southern California to have at least 300 good diveable days per year. Storms do happen, and I reserve the right to cancel ocean sessions if I feel conditions are unsafe. I do not offer refunds for weather related cancellations or sea sickness, although students can earn a 'pool only' certification and make up ocean sessions missed due to weather at a later date to earn the full certification. I do not offer refunds for students who start the class with inadequate or missing equipment.
When you sign up for a class, you will receive an email with the exact location of the pool and classroom, but for Los Angeles area classes, we typically do our classroom out of Neptonics Long Beach and our ocean dives from the beach at Veteran's Park, in Redondo Beach. It is a very short swim to reach diving depth, parking is plentiful, and there are bathrooms and showers right there. For private classes or groups willing to pay associated boat fees, I can instead arrange ocean sessions on a Coast Guard approved charter, either in coastal waters or to Channel Islands and beyond.
LODGING AND TRAVEL INFO:
Are you coming to Los Angeles specifically to take a class? Welcome! Lodging prices vary widely throughout the city. Before booking a room, it is wise to check the class location since 'Los Angeles' covers a large area of incredibly varied neighborhoods. Hotels near the water will be particularly expensive, but often times great lodging deals near the water can be found on AirBnB. Some guests to the city may choose to rent a car, but rideshares such as Uber and Lyft are very competitive in Los Angeles and for many guests this may be cheaper than renting a car. For our Long Beach classes we usually run our ocean sessions out of Redondo Beach. This is a pictureseque, laid back beach town with plenty of outdoor activities, suitable for families and single people alike. The nearby towns of Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach are similar. Further north is the more cosmopolitan Santa Monica, which offers great dining and shopping. Long Beach, which is a common location for the pool and classroom portions of the class, offers very affordable lodging options and is home to the busiest port in America. The beach cities are bike and pedestrian friendly; the paved trail along the beach which connects the coastal cities is 40 miles long.
PRIVATE CLASSES, GUIDED OCEAN TOURS, AND PHOTO/VIDEO SHOOTS:
I am a licensed US Coast Guard captain and I do offer private classes and one-on-one instruction, and I can arrange boat trips to Channel Islands and beyond on Coast Guard approved vessels as well as private, in ocean photo or video shoots with professional freedive photographers/videographers. Contact me to discuss.
Your continued safe improvement AFTER the class is also important to me. One common shortfall I have noticed in divers and even instructors coming out of other programs is that they lack a comprehensive training approach that allows them to improve in the months and years after the class. Sure, most divers achieve new personal performance records during class, but if at the conclusion they are unable to duplicate that performance or further improve, how useful were those performance gains? I always try to make sure that my students leave with tools and knowledge to continue growing as divers, even if they can't make it to the ocean every weekend. In addition, students who finish the program receive access to private message boards and training videos from PFI, as well as the 'Pro-tips' section of my website.
I also offer private coaching for specific pursuits—such as competition, underwater modeling/stunts, spearfishing—but only to students who have been through my program or an equivalent. Performance training only happens with concurrent safety training, and I can only train divers if I am confident in their self rescue and buddy rescue skills, which are the foundation of our classes. Private ocean sessions can be booked through the store. Contact me for more info.