Free Diving with Tripkada
Last September 11, just as throngs of employees were making their way out of the buildings and hitting the road, I headed into Makati’s San Antonio Village for a much-awaited experience. That day, Tripkada was holding a freediving class at Vistamar Dive Center! What’s so special about freediving, you ask? Well, this class was pegged at a price of just Php 300! And no, it’s not a sneaky gimmick or an underhanded marketing ploy. Read on and know how this might just be the best Php 300 anyone could have spent.
Jumping in Headfirst
When I got into Vistamar, I noticed that there were more than 50 of us joining the class. I thought that was just as well, though I started to doubt if our instructors will be able to divide their attention equally among us all. Tripkada did it in a very organized manner, they divided the participants into batches and gave the participants their specific time slots. I was worried about the activity though since I am not confident in holding my breath under water but this was dispelled as soon as our instructors — qualified by the Scuba Schools International, no less — stepped into view.
The first part was spent setting our expectations about the dive. We were briefed on what freediving is, and how different it is from the more well-known scuba diving. Of course, there’s the obvious — freedivers do not use the oxygen tanks of scuba divers, though other equipment like masks and fins may be used. That gives them much less underwater time. But it’s what freedivers do within this time that is quite impressive. Moving underwater completely under their own power, most freedivers descend for the sheer rush of it! It’s all about challenging one’s limits, prompting many to see just how deep and long they can dive before going up again. Who knew something so simple could, at the core, be so exhilarating?
We were also briefed on the equipment we could use, such as masks, fins, and snorkels. We were taught how to check if they fit, since getting the wrong equipment would make them less effective and even dangerous. Snorkel masks, for example, should have skirts (the rubber edge) that fit snugly so they don’t leak nor fog. Fins also have to be snug, and you have to choose whether you’re getting an open-heeled one or not. It’s all pretty easy. And while all these equipment would make the dive easier, advanced divers are free not to use them.
After being introduced to gear, we were also taught about proper breathing techniques. Yes, this exists! In another room, Vince (one of the instructors) taught us that by breathing right at the surface, one can hold his breath better underwater. Freedivers practice a pattern that culminates in a single large breath, preparing them for the dive. They also train to fight the urge to breathe, which usually happens after the first minute.
Aside from leading us through the breathing process (and having us try it ourselves), Vince also talked about how he came to love freediving. It’s an inspiring talk, and it’s also very reassuring! It’s much easier to trust this man to have our backs when we dive, knowing he’s not here just because he’s getting paid to do it.
In case we were interested in pursuing more of freediving after this lesson, we were also given tips on how we can physically prepare. The sport is a taxing one, and a healthy lifestyle is needed. Our instructors advocated doing stretching and yoga, as they help maintain the flexibility needed for underwater movement.
The pool, and beyond
After our briefing, we finally made our way to the pool! We had been divided prior into 5 different batches, so we didn’t all descend at the same time. When our groups came, we were all there standing at the edge in our swimsuits, waiting for our instructors’ signal.
Up to this point, even with ample lectures, I didn’t really think I can do it. But when the time came to jump right in, I realized that I can! Our instructors were very hands-on during our dive, and they never got tired of clarifying things. They really got us into the groove, and stepped in when they see something that needs to be corrected. I absolutely LOVED this experience!
When we surfaced, and everyone was dry and changed, our instructors led us to another section of the dive center for socials. Remarkably, our measly Php 300 fee came with light snacks! I had been talking to the rest of the group and asking them the reason that they decided to join. Many of them answered that normally, this very same class would have cost around Php 1,800. We got it for Php 1,500 off, and still got the quality of instruction that went for the full-price — and more! The Php 1,800 itself is a bargain price due to Tripkada’s technique of pooling people together on trips, so tonight’s rates are absolutely rock-bottom.
It was around 10PM, and over some beer we were greeted by the CEO of Tripkada herself. April told us that this trip is just the first of many such classes. Her bigger goal in the future is to take these freediving trips to where they naturally belong — the sea! Tripkada’s idea has always been to foster social tourism, which is evident in its business model. April hopes to tie up this freediving endeavor with other social-responsibility projects. Currently the service lists a lot of trips ranging from those that showcase the natural beauty and biodiversity of the nation to those engaging people to do outreach programs. All for bargain prices! I have always admired the vision of Tripkada, and this took it to another level.
While this is not the last such event, we still don’t know when the next one will be. So stay tuned and download the Tripkada app! Meanwhile you can take a look at any of the trips they have in store. As for me, I’m very lucky to be among the few dozen to have experienced their first freediving class. I’m pretty sure I could use the skills I gained here at a future time!