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Calm Under Water

Augusto with Whale shark in Koh Tao - Thailand photo by: Elaine Brett

Augusto with Whale shark in Koh Tao – Thailand photo by: Elaine Brett

This summer the Sørfing crew took a course in breath holding with waterman Augusto Vegas. For the course here in Oslo this summer SrfSnwSk8 generously provided location for the theory part of the class and the water time was spent in Frognerbadet. We were about ten people who had a great time, pushed ourselves to new levels and learnt a lot. After the course we decided to do an interview so more people can learn about breath holding. After all, we cant keep all secrets secret.

Augusto is a native Peruvian and grew up in Lima.  He has been a tour guide in China (among other places), diving instructor in Thailand and currently work as a fitness coach in Kenya. He is a big-wave surfer and free diver. Here at Sørfing Magazine Augusto is considered a part of the crew and family, as a matter of fact he is the cousin of Sørfing co-founder Julius Vegas
and has been part of several surf trips with us and is featured in the Peru Surf flick, you can find on the front page.

Not only has Augusto taught us breath holding, but has also been a surfing mentor for us. From a surfing trip along the bay of Biscay, about ten years ago, when we couldn´t even surf to charging Penascal reef in San Bartolo, Peru. Augusto has shared the stoke and small pointers of surfing technique along the way that has helped us take our surfing skill further. After the course at Frognerbadet Augusto left early next morning. We therefor did the interview by email. Please read and share what Augusto has to tell about free-diving and breath holding. Below is links if you want to get in touch with Augusto and Survival Apnea.

First of, tell a little about yourself and what you are currently doing

Where to get started? I have been playing in the ocean since a little kid, fishing, swimming and body boarding. Little by little i started to broaden my «Oceanic Playground». Eventually i got seriously into surfing and free-diving. Currently i make a living as a natural health & skills coach for a company called Wild Fitness. Also i am spending some time developing and teaching breath hold survival skills through Survival Apnea, a project i´m developing with Marianna Krupnitskaya who is a competitive free-diver and swimming coach.

Marianna Krupnitskaya, streamlined in the pool

Marianna Krupnitskaya, streamlined in the pool

On to Free-diving, what´s it all about?

Free-diving  is the art, sport or activity,  I don´t feel it should be boxed, of being under water on a single breath. This has been practised by humans for centuries in various ways; pearl divers, spear fishing, etc. Nowadays, a competitive perspective has developed around it and this, with its pros and cons has taken the art to a complete different level. As a free-diver one develops great awareness of oneself and personal capabilities. To progress as a free-diver you need to pay attention at what is holding you back, wether it is a mental or physical barrier.

What kind of experience do you have when free-diving?

There are many ways or perspectives to answer this question. I´m going to stick to the more wild and natural angel. As a free-diver one develops the skill to perform well under water on a single breath. When entering the ocean one is no longer an observer, but another marine creature. Free-diving gives you the opportunity to connect with nature and yourself in a very cool way.

Tell us about the free-diving society and the knowledge within it? 

Generally speaking, the free-diving community consists of very cool and calm people, who value spending time in nature, learning and sharing new skills and oceanic experiences. Amongst the skills they practice are breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, meditation, the overcoming of mental barriers and the development of efficient displacement under water.

How do you work on progress, mentally and physically?

 First of all you need to understand that for your body and mind to adapt to a new environment, it must first feel the need to do so. Through training, the freediver exposes the mind and body to new challenges that recreate the different scenarios one could encounter under water; the urge to breathe, fatigue, fear, pressure, etc. Its important to take baby steps, as if you expose yourself to much too fast all you get is hitting walls over and over.

Survival Apnea, your newly started company. Please tell us about it  and the courses you give?

Survival Apnea is an attempt to share free-divers knowledge with other water enthusiast. Our focus is on developing and sharing user friendly techniques and exercises, with the object of raising awareness and performance of the individual when going through a breath hold scenario. The courses created by Survival Apnea have a simple and practical format. We want our students to develop an understanding of what the human mind and body go through during a breath hold scenario. Also with discipline and practice, the student will increase his or her ability to deal effectively with underwater challenges.

Is it for every one? can anyone start to free-dive?

Anyone can free-dive. I was obsessed with it since young age, not sure why. I think its a beautiful activity and encourages a healthy lifestyle and respect for the environment. In addition it is important to say that there are risks involved, so it should be practised responsibly and as free-divers know well. Never alone.

 I had a great experience with the course and got new knowledge, that is great to have when surfing. Do you think the breathing techniques and knowledge of free-diving could be good to learn about for people that don´t dive or do other water-sport, and if why and what for?

Yes, as an example: at the moment i am working in Kenya for a company called Wild Fitness. Here i teach free-diving breathing skills with the aim of sharing relaxation skills. In modern life, stress has a big and negative affect on ones health. Learning simple breathing exercises one realise the power one has to relax if wanted to do so.

Is there any good travel destinations where courses can be taken, and is it something that can be done during a vacation?

Yes, free-diving schools are spreading around the world. Most of them focus on free-diving purely. To mention a few places: Koh-Tao, Thailand, Bali and the Gili Islands, Indonesia and Dahab, Egypt. Survival Apnea does not have a headquarter yet. At the moment we are taking courses to the people. To teach, all we need is a class room (witch was a surf-shop for the course here in Oslo. Editor.) and a swimming pool.

Will you be back to Norway to give another course.

Its on the list. I´ll keep you guys posted. Thanks for the interview.

We thank you Augusto, for the enlightening course you gave and all the good times this summer.

Check out Survival Apnea here.