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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....

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ABOUT THE FIRST LEVEL PFI FREEDIVER CLASS:  Learn to freedive!  This is our 'level 1' class.  Whether your focus is spearfishing, underwater photography, stunts, fitness, or simply fun, the PFI 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 with an emphasis in 'sport' freediving safety and techniques, 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 we give--your instructor will shadow you on every dive to keep you safe and also to watch your technique--more experienced divers will still be challenged.  We provide tips and feedback appropriate to your own individual level.  Student/teacher ratios are very low, with never than 4 - 6 students per instructor when in the ocean.  We typically conduct the open water portion of this class at Veteran's Park Beach, with our training spot being a relaxed 5 - 7 minute kick in long fins from the beach.  If you're able to swim but intimidated by swimming off the beach into deeper water, we recommend you start with the DISCOVER FREEDIVING class, which provides a gentler introduction and the opportunity to earn a basic level freediving certification.

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--or who perform stunts for film/tv or work professionally in the water--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.  This is a four day class.  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.  The skills taught in this class are roughly equivalent to an AIDA 3/Molchanov Wave 3.  I also offer this class in a 'camp' type setting in various prime locations throughout the world.  Continue reading or contact me for more information.

ABOUT THE SPECIALTY CLASSES:   We added these classes in response to students who want further education that specializes in pursuits beyond typical 'sport freediving' such as spearfishing or surf hold-downs, or for competitive divers/instructors.  The PFI Freediver class is the prerequisite for most of these classes.  Stay tuned as we'll be adding more of these!

PRICES: The first level, 'Freediver' class price is $500.  Intermediate classes are $850.  One day specialty classes are in the neighborhood of $350.  My private rate is $1000/day, inquire for more details on private packages, certification classes, or trips and what that includes.  Once you have registered for a class, any change of date is subject to availability and a $100 fee, and no change of date is allowed within 72 hours of class start; registration deposit is forfeit.

CLASS SCHEDULE AND LOCATIONS:  For details, click on the class in the shop page.  At the bottom of the description will be a detailed schedule breakdown as well as locations for classroom, swimming pool, and open water.

Quick-links to register for an upcoming class:​

PFI Freediver course (Los Angeles), April 27 - 28

PFI Freediver course (Los Angeles), April 29 - 30 ** MIDWEEK **

PFI Freediver course (Los Angeles), May 11 - 12

PFI Freediver course (Los Angeles), May 20 - 21 ** MIDWEEK **

Discover Freediving (Los Angeles), May 30 & June 1

PFI Freediver course (Los Angeles), June 1 - 2

PFI Intermediate Freediver course (Los Angeles), June 6 - 9

Coastal Spearfishing and Foraging (Los Angeles), June 15 - 16

SAVE THE DATE:  PFI Intermediate and Deep Spearing Camp (Dominica), December 1 -7

*** I usually post my class schedule a few months out, teach year round, and typically offer at least two to four classes per month. If the link to the class in the shop 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.  ***

IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING CORONAVIRUS: By registering and participating in this class you hereby acknowledge that strict social distancing or mask wearing 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.

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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 250' (76M), constant weight without fins, as well as 85M done constant weight with bi-fins.  Official records I currently hold include the US National Record in CNF at 76M, 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!"

  • What are the requirements to take the first level PFI Freediver class?
    For our first level class ('Freeediver'), you must be able swim, and comfortable with idea of swimming in the ocean, entering from a beach. You don't need to have perfect swimming technique but in a pool, you must at minimum be able to tread water unassisted for 5 minutes, and finish a 100 yard swim on the surface with your face in the water. 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 equalization 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 preparation 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.
  • What are the requirements to take the PFI Intermediate 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 or 2 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, provided you have solid equalization skills. 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. ​
  • I’ve been wanting to get into this but I don’t know where to find dive/spear buddies?
    Take a class! We have a huge number of freedivers in southern California and an easy way to get involved is by taking a class from a recognized instructor. An official certification will also open up a great number of training, playing, and networking opportunities here and abroad.
  • Will my PFI certification be recognized outside of North America?
    Yes. PFI is the second oldest freediving organization in the world, and the first to be insurable by an international underwriter. As an education system, PFI has evolved since its inception in 1999, but it’s still somewhat the gold standard for safety. Techniques developed by the original PFI family are used by a variety of first responders, motion picture professionals, military and special forces, and competitors of all stripes.
  • Why do you require the 2 day PFI Freediver classes as a prerequisite to take spearfishing or surfing breathwork classes?
    In the PFI Freediver class, we cover physiology, safety, and breath basics. Those fundamentals are the same across the board, so before engaging in specialized training it will help to have that groundwork.
  • I have noticed some scuba shops offer freediving classes over the course of several weekends. Why are yours just a few days?
    Most of our classes are intensives intended to be incredibly thorough and real world results driven. All are taught by some of the most experienced and in-demand instructors in the world. We regularly see brand new but committed divers double and triple their depths and breathhold times in the space of two days–in addition to earning an internationally recognized formal certification. A low cost, no certification class, spread over 4 weekends does not suit our business or clientele.
  • Why do you do your open water dives at Veterans Park Beach?
    The unique geography of that beach–protection from various prevailing swells AND the Redondo Submarine Canyon make depth and reasonably good diving conditions available year round, without the time and expense of running a boat to a dive park at one of our islands. If you would prefer to do a class in a different location, that's certainly an option for a private package.
  • What is the maximum class size?
    Our most experienced instructors will never have more than 6 students in an open water session unless an assistant or second instructor is present.
  • After finishing the class, where/how can I continue to train?
    Once you earn a basic freediving certification you can join various free training meet-ups. We have an active group that trains year round every weekend out of Veteran’s Park Beach.
  • What kind of gear is required for 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.
  • Can I rent all the equipment I need for the class?
    Yes, Spear America Southbay does rent freedive specific equipment. The cost is usually around $100/day. If you are a body type that is particularly difficult to size, please contact them ahead of time to make sure they have your size. If you’re taking the Basic Freediver class, you can rent snorkeling equipment from Dive ‘N Surf, who hosts that class. Rentals (or purchases) can be taken care of during the lunch break on the first day of class, before we leave Spear America for the pool.
  • Can I wear my scuba fins and wetsuit in the freediving classes?
    Yes, but the experience will be better with freedive specific gear. The open cell style 2 piece freediving suits are significantly warmer than an equivalent thickness scuba or surf suit. It can also be hugely beneficial to work with freedive specific longfins in the class so you can receive instruction in proper use. If you’re interested in a ‘discover’ freediving class and don’t want to invest anything into gear, the Basic Freediver might be a good option.
  • Can I wear a surfing or triathlon wetsuit for a freediving class?
    In theory, yes, but for the length of continuous time we spend in the water during the class, it simply won’t be warm enough unless you are particularly gifted in the cold water tolerance department. During our warmest months–late summer, early fall–a winter surf suit is adequate for some people. The Basic Freediver class is more of a ‘discovery’ type class with a short ocean session and might be a good fit if you don’t want to rent or purchase additional gear.
  • Can you recommend some good brands for quality equipment?
    For new divers, the best equipment is usually going to be the best fitting and most appropriate for our waters, not necessarily the cheapest online deals. Prior to classes I recommend students visit a brick and mortar freediving shop such as Spear America since they’ll have a large selection and knowledgeable staff. We will cover equipment in more detail during the class.
  • I signed up for a class but something came up and I need to change the date?
    Once you have registered for a class by putting down the deposit, your spot is held. To change to a different available date, please email socalspearit@gmail.com ASAP. There is a $100 change fee, and you may only change to a class with space available (many classes will sell out ahead of time). Changes are not permitted within 3 days of class start and any deposits paid for that class are forfeit.
  • Do you offer refunds related to seasickness or faulty equipment?
    While we will make every reasonable effort to accommodate seasickness or equipment problems, we cannot offer refunds due to student seasickness or illness. Students are responsible for securing their own equipment for the courses. As a policy we do not offer refunds to students who begin the course without their own equipment, insufficient equipment, ill-fitting equipment, equipment which is a poor match for ocean conditions, or students who have any other problems with their equipment be it rental, owned, borrowed or otherwise.
  • I signed up for a class but am worried about the weather forecast?
    We always make safety a priority and will not hesitate to call off a class if the instructor deems the marine forecast makes diving either unsafe or just impossible for teaching. That being said, weather cancellations are extraordinarily rare for us–having happened just three times in the last seven years, and typically during winter months. We also would stress to students that there is a big difference between the marine forecast–meaning, what’s going on in the ocean between wind, waves, and water temps–and the Los Angeles weather forecast as typically reported on the news. The two are often completely unconnected. For instance, we may see high winds and travel advisories in the city of Los Angeles but a clear and calm ocean, and vice versa. Water quality after a rain can be a concern but in general the Southbay region of Los Angeles where we dive sees minimal storm runoff, being many miles from any rivers and fed with offshore currents. We do not as a policy offer refunds due to weather related cancellations. If we do cancel an ocean session due to weather or ocean conditions, students have an opportunities to make up the session at a later date, free of charge.
  • Do you offer refreshers or a way for me to finish up an incomplete certification?
    As a rule, a prior student who just owes maybe one or two dives to finish a cert can join ANY ocean session where there is room for them (meaning fewer than 6 students), and after completing those dives, upgrade/finish their cert for a $100 fee. Often we don’t know if there is room in an ocean session until the day of.
  • Do you take people out for spearfishing excursions?
    I do, but I require spearfishing students to have prior formal freedive training first, from me or a recognized agency. I find that our success rate is better and safety is much improved. The Apnea Hunter class is basically a semi-private spearfishing class available to students after they’ve completed the PFI Freediver class. I'm a licensed USCG commercial captain and have a small vessel which can run coastal or to nearby islands as well. Contact me for details or to set something up.
  • I signed up for a hunting class, can I rent a speargun?
    No. No shops or vendors will rent spearguns in California. If you’re in one of my classes that is spearfishing focused I will have loaner spearguns on the boat to learn with.
  • I have a boat and would like to put together a private spearfishing trip with friends, is that possible?
    Yes, I can put together custom packages for any ability level anywhere. I do require some formal freediving instruction before any spearfishing. If you/your group doesn’t have this, it will be part of the package.
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