An Equalization Instructor’s Reflections

I was very honoured to have been invited by Mark Cheung from Apnea 42 to work with students with equalization issues from 4 – 12 June 2022 at Freedive SuperHome in Panglao, the Philippines. Besides in-water practice, I also conducted a series of workshops withs students on the tongue, sinuses, and mouth and jaws.

Working with students with equalization issues is not the easiest, both for the students and the instructor. Especially for our students, their progress in freediving has been much slower than their peers’. They have issues not only with performing the manoeuvres, but some of them also have persistent issues with blocked sinuses and are prone to getting blocked when they dive.

Hence, it is very important to keep the morale of students high and not fixate on what students cannot do but instead, to always highlight and point out what they could and can do. We do so through observing and verbalising what they have successfully done and giving them high-fives often.

This is very important because it can be very discouraging when one’s perceived performance is always below one’s expectations. By giving appropriate instruction to a level that the student is ready to achieve and then recognising it when the student has made the progress, the instructor can progressively build confidence and trust on the buoy.

Over time, as the morale is lifted on the buoy, something magical happens. There is a change in atmosphere. And even if it’s only one student in the buoy experiencing some success, this success rubs off onto other students, and there is collective joy, and others too want to try what this student is doing. Hence, it also does help to rotate the students across the buoys.

I also take this chance to encourage instructors who work with students with equalization issues not to be impatient, not to give up, not to be hard on themselves, and not to judge themselves based on their students’ performances. Many of our students have real challenges with equalization that could be functional, psychological or anatomical, and they only come to you after exhausting many options. So it is not an easy job.

But the rewards are great when you see your students put in the hard work and experience different forms of success! It really takes some people longer, just to perform the normal Frenzel movement that other students can easily get at one go. For others, just to achieve this movement, can take months of tongue, soft palate, pharynx and larynx training.

But it is a journey that is well worth the effort, both for students and instructors. It doesn’t matter how long we take, so long we enjoy the journey and have fun along the way. đŸ™‚ As there is much treasure to behold in every moment, so much to learn in this journey, every step of the way.

Photo of us after a dive on the Freedive SuperHome boat back to the school by Judith Chew

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