Posted by: Sergei | October 25, 2014

Training and Travel Tips from Oleg Levchenko, newly minted AIDA *** freediver

Hi all. I wanted to share some experience of going through AIDA ** and ***.

It all started in Toronto with theory class and written exam, which wasn’t too hard to complete. Next, were pool class with statics, dynamics, safety. I was glad that I was part of FT, because we used same pool and our instructors were same guys as we always train with: Sergei and Soren, so the stress level was minimal. So at the end the static and dynamic requirements everybody passed with no problem, I did static 2’20”and 50 m of DYN. At that point the course for AIDA** had to pause because Sergei and Soren went to Roatan, Honduras to be the safety freedivers at the Caribbean Cup 2014. I had an opportunity to go there as well. I thank Sergei and Soren for their time they spend with me in the pool for safety drills, which I must emphasize were really thorough and real life based and for the time on diving platform and open water. I had a hard time to equalize head down and my sinuses were blocked. Fortunately, last two days of my stay my sinuses got better and I could go deeper. I was doing free emersion, so I could gain a better control to equalize and managed to go to 17m (it was very slow and took me 1’10”). Now, my main obstacle was to master the “duck dive”and Frenzel. But overall, feeling to be with professional freedivers on the same platform and dive there, was something  amazing and unique – I had never done anything like that before. Roatan is a great place to dive, water is calm and very warm ( 30*C). it is fairly easy to find the depth, just past the first line of the reef approximately 25 m – there was sandy bottom at 6m deep, you swim another 30 m out (right after second line of the reef) and there is a drop to 14 m deep and so on… (I didn’t venture far more out). I met Walid Boudhiaf there, he lived there to train himself and teach AIDA courses. I was really motivated to keep on training after Roatan.

Roatan Sunset

Sunset in Roatan


So, back to Toronto and more pool training. Everybody still had to complete all safety and open water dives. Thankfully, I’ve done all of that in Roatan, so for me it was only as a refresher. About safety: Soren and Sergei were safety divers in many competitions, so safety issue for them is a big deal and by being safety divers they could and have brought so much more of their personal experience. There is a difference I’ve noticed as to the safety, practical application in the next course and people I’ve met but more about it later.


To freedive in open water, in Lake Ontario, is VERY different from Roatan. We have started as a shore dive from Humber Bay park west and dived to -10 or -12 meters. Water was rough choppy and no visibility at shore (I dropped my snorkel in knee deep of water and couldn’t find it). We swam about 30 to 40 meters from the shore and start with some pull downs (free immersion) with the short hang at about -5 or -6 meters- it was warm ups and then we dove, it was -10 meters to the bottom and some visibility we had only at -7 or -8 meters. I had 5 mm suit and 8 lbs of weight. It was difficult for me to overcome cold water and thick suit plus equalizing wasn’t the best one- my ears were sticking all the time. I was kind of sad, comparing to Roatan – Ontario sucked. 2-nd open water was a little better; maybe I kind of submit to the fact that I live in Ontario and that’s the reality. We did the same warm ups and dove to -13 -14 meters. But on our way back, we had to fight the current to come back. Soren was less fortunate that day – he lost his car keys (those were in small floatable pouch/bag), they might still float somewhere:(.

3-rd time was even better and I think  a little fun. We used my boat, so we didn’t have to swim 1/2 a mile out to dive deeper; we enjoyed a boat ride till we get to -18m, dropped the anchor and dove. Water was clearer than at the shore, visibility about 15 ft. My right ear was sticking again but I managed to -15 meters and that in cold water!

Totonto Sunset


Now I had to wait till my next course: September 15-19 – Vertical Blue school, intermediate course with William Trubridge and September 20-21 AIDA*** with Walid Boudhiaf and all that at Dean’s Blue Hole, Long Island, Bahamas.


It took me 3 different planes to get from Toronto to Long Island. It was raining when I got there on September 13-th, I’ve wanted to come a little early to get acclimatized. I’ve rented a car (which is a must for that island) and went to Blue Hole.

That little laguna is absolutely phenomenal and amazing. There isn’t any waves, no current (almost always), calm water 29*C, sandy beach with 80 or 90 ft tall lime stone cliff shaped as a half-moon, protecting the gem – The Blue Hole. Only being right there I truly understood why it’s been called “freediving Mecca”. About 10 meters from the shore its already 10 m deep and behold! Hole opens at about 30 m in diameter and goes down to 202 meters. The diving platform with Suunto and Orca plaques was there with both lines down. I swam there and dove to -12m-so easy I couldn’t hold my laugh compering THIS with Ontario. I didn’t want to dive any deeper – that was the first day and I did not want to risk any problems with my ears.



Dean’s Blue Hole

All participants met a day before the training at the restaurant called “Roudy Boys” for dinner and introduction (food was good and not expensive). There were eight of us- students and William and Walid. I was quite surprised to see some people there, I thought it would be only free divers but instead there were two guys in early 60-s one of them had an introductory level from Thailand and his friend was scuba diver, husband and wife who like to spearfish, spearfishing guy from New Zealand, PADI Dive Master from Puerto Rico, freediver from Peru.


BH class

.. getting ready to dive into Blue Hole

The training started at 9 am with the safety briefing and we hit the water. We were split into two groups, one group (4 people) with William and another 4 with Walid and we were switching between William and Walid. Warm ups with short hang were almost the same: we could go a little deeper ( -10 m) and stay a little longer. Then it followed with “duck dive” – the form and the ways to do it and finning. The way it was: one guy diving and another watching as a safety diver. I did -16m CWT at the first day. Mostly we dove CWT or FIM. With conditions being so much better, diving was more relaxing and I found that I can go a little faster but on the other hand, it was kind of hard to sync it with equalizing and each time if I skipped equalizing, I could go another 1,5 m till I felt a discomfort/ slight pain in the ears. We finished at 12pm for lunch and at 2:30 pm it was theory class till 5 pm and then yoga glass with Brittany Trubridge. First two theory classes were very much the same as the theory from AIDA * and **. Last two more about equalizing, finning, breathing exercise and ways to practice for deep dives. Yoga classes were very geared towards freediving and quite intense ( I’ve been doing “poweryoga” for 8 month now, so I know what intense is). Second and third days we had similar routines at Blue Hole, each time diving a little deeper and a little faster, so on the third day I went -23m it took 55” and to -24 m it took 50”. Forth day it was a day when we were setting the depth with bottom plate and diving even deeper, so we were setting our PB’s ( I had my PB’s before I came to Blue hole at -17 FIM and -15m CWT, 2-nd day in Blue hole I already had my new PB and same for the 3-rd day too). I was first to dive, set for -25 m and I did it in 52”. After that we tried different disciplines like variable weight and CNF. After William gave us a super crash course of CNF, everybody loved it and mostly dive CNF till the end of the day. Last day of intermediate course was the leisure one: half of the group went spearfishing with William and another back to the Blue Hole for more depth with Walid. That day I did my PB of -29m took me 1’ 03”.

That was it for Vertical Blue Intermediate course. During this course William shared with us some of his techniques of breathing, diving and exercises, his stories about some interesting dives. we learned about freediving diet and yoga.


There was 4 of us for AIDA *** with Walid and it was piece of cake. Every day diving deeper and deeper for previous 5 days paid off, so everybody was deeper than -24 m, rescue from -15m and mask removal was easy. Theory wasn’t hard – we were covering some of it at intermediate class. Finally was static and dynamic-we used, freshly built pool (one lane 2.5 m x 25 m) at William’s house. For me it was the easiest, since I train mostly in the pool, so I did 3’15” in static and 72 m of DYN.

BH group photo

With Walid Boudhiaf on the left and William Trubridge on the right

To summarize :

Best safety training, pool training is at Freedive Toronto.

Best place to practice depth is Dean’s Blue Hole.

Best instructors: Sergei, Soren, William, Walid each of them shared with me unique knowledge. Thank you very much!


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