Q&A with a Freediving Instructor

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Read Part 1 of Britney Ouellette’s Interview

…It was a very exciting experience but also a bit nerve-racking to dive with such talented divers. I was shocked that even though you are in a competition setting, we all cheer for each other and hope everyone makes their dive.

The first time I hit 55m was during Deja Blue 9 in 2018.  It was my first big competition and I was having a hard time with the mouth fill technique. I was able to partake in the training camp before the competition and learned a lot from everyone there.  Once I learned how to properly execute the dive I then had to find confidence in myself. I think everyone at the competition believed in me before I did. The day before I did my first 50m dive which was easy and felt great and that gave me the confidence to go to 55m.

Britney Ouellette freediving at the bottom on the ocean
Photo courtesy of Britney Ouellette

Who is your support team?

I had a massive support team during training and it only grew during the week-long competition. My friends supported me and would stay after work to be my safety during static training. My good friend Mark Tilley who taught me to dive and always believed in me, was out in the water with me every weekend.

During the competition, we all supported each other. Carolina Schrappe who was there doing 100m+ dives and was getting back in the water to coach me before my dives. Mandy-Rae Krack was also constantly giving me tips throughout the week.

What are the risks of freediving?

There are risks in freediving like any sport but with proper training, listening to your body, diving within your limits and never diving alone you minimize the risk. 

What is the coolest thing you have experienced or seen while freediving?

The coolest thing I have seen during a freedive was a seahorse.  It was during the training camp for Deja Blue 9 and we had the rig set up more than a mile away from shore and we were just out drifting.  I was on the warm-up line and as I was ascending the smallest seahorse I have ever seen just appeared in front of me.  It ended up attaching to our training line and stayed with us for the rest of the day. 

Britney Ouellette freediving
Photo courtesy of Britney Ouellette

Another very surreal experience I had was at work.  I was in the water with a colleague checking to see how much of the mooring line was ripped out and needed to be replaced when we came across a young male Caribbean Reef Shark. Normally when we see them on scuba dive they curiously swim around us and hang out for a bit but never get too close. While freediving it was a completely different experience. He was swimming right beside me then would turn and I would follow. Every time I went for another dive he would find me and it felt more like we were playing. It was a completely different experience I have ever had compared to any time I’ve seen them on scuba.

What is your scuba diving experience?

I am a MSDT (Master Scuba Diver Trainer) with PADI and have been teaching for almost eight years now.

I originally completed my DM and Instructor course through SSI with Big Blue on Koh Tao, Thailand, then eventually did the PADI instructor course back in Ontario, Canada at Float and Flag.   

I am currently the operations supervisor at Ocean Frontiers in Grand Cayman and have been living here for almost five years now. This island definitely feels like home now and I still enjoy scuba diving very much.

What advice would you give to people interested in freediving?

I often hear from my students and friends, before they take the level one course, that they can’t hold their breath or they won’t be able to go deep. I remind them that we all learn to freedive the same way and that the course isn’t about going super deep or having an exceptional long breath-hold. It’s about learning the basics and safety behind freediving first, and then growing their skills from there.   

What’s next for you in freediving?

This year I became Sherwood Scuba’s first Freediving Ambassador which is very exciting. As well as that, I am hoping to compete more regularly.  I was planning to compete in 2020 but it will now be postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19. Although I have certain goals in mind I want to focus mainly on enjoying myself and having fun out there.  

For me, freediving is a sport that has made me push myself harder than I’ve ever had (in and out of the water for training), taught me to be more confident in myself but also puts me at ease. Being in the ocean is one place I’m able to completely clear my mind and feel free.  

Britney Ouellette freediving between 2 underwater rock formations
Photo courtesy of Britney Ouellette

Follow Britney’s freediving and adventures in Grand Cayman on her instagram.

Enjoying this Q&A? Read more stories and interviews with divers at Down to Scuba.

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Emma was initially terrified of the deep ocean but dived into scuba diving in 2013, and hasn't looked back since! She worked as an underwater videographer for several years and is now a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer. She currently runs a dive shop on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand and is the founder of Down To Scuba.