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Improve your confidence and ability to operate in and underwater safely. The average increase in just 5 hours is over 100%.


Times (unless otherwise advertised).

Swim Free Confidence Underwater 8am - 1pm
Refresher 1-2pm
Advanced Training 2-3:30pm

Total Cost: R0.00


In this course I teach people to approach and manage their breath hold so that they can vastly increase their capacity in and under the water. I developed this course purely because as a surfer I wanted to be comfortable surfing bigger waves and know that I could handle the hold downs. The increased capacity led to me becoming interested in adventure free diving and open water swimming, which I now also love, but these activities are very different when it comes to managing your breath hold.

In adventure free diving your breath is rarely adrenalised or hypoxic. Depth and bottom time are primary objectives to maximise exploration and interaction with marine wildlife. In surfing you are both hypoxic and adrenalised and depth is is not so much an objective as is surviving the beating. In open water swimming dealing with surf zones can be intimidating, especially if you are not confident about your breath hold.

It doesn't matter what your comfort zone is, this course will help you relax in the surf because it will make you more confident in what you are able to handle by teaching you how to understand and manage the processes that are going on in your body. You DO NOT have to be a big wave surfer or extreme athlete to benefit from this. The average increase in just 5 hrs is around 100%.

The course has five fundamental pillars and takes approximately 5 hours to run. The cost is R950pp.

It covers.

Discovering your mammalian dive reflex and learning how to use it.
Conscious breathing. Breath up, the breath and recovery breath. Understanding the gas exchange that is going on in your body. Remember a lot of this in surfing is hypoxic and adrenalised, which is very different to free diving.
Efficiency underwater. We speak a different language down there and the smallest things underwater can make a massive difference. Slow is Pro! When transitioning from above to below the surface we have to learn to press the ‘reset’ button. I run several drills that deal specifically with wipeout and caught inside scenarios as well as how to behave underwater when this happens.
Safety. We always do waterwork with a buddy, be conservative, understand contractions and C02, never hyperventilate, understand the difference between blackout (your mammalian dive reflex preventing you from drowning) and drowning by breathing in water. Understand and share deepwater resuscitation , it could save your life!
The power of the mind. There is distinction between blind determination and enlightened activation, I focus on the latter.

the refresher

Due to the dynamic nature of the study of apnea, the Swim Free Confidence Underwater is constantly evolving and improving. I am continually learning from the vast array of interesting people I work with and looking for ways to improve and refine the course. The Refresher is a FREE one hour workshop designed for people who have already done the Swim Free Confidence Underwater Course but would like to brush up on their skills or catch up on the updated course content. Attendance is free but you do need to book your slots. I urge all of you who have already done this course to come and do a refresher.

The advanced training

Because this field is so dynamic and we're constantly learning more about how our bodies are capable of operating underwater, this year I'm including an advanced training session for students who have already completed the first course. This is effectively a 'training session' based on what we’ve developed with the elite squad I've been working with in Durban.

It will include:

Macro and micro problem solving tasks
Weight training
Blindfold (disorientation) work
Fin technique
Cross training
Adrenalized hypoxic breath hold.

This takes 90 minutes hrs to run and costs R600pp.
Note only people who have previously completed the Swim Free Confidence Underwater Course may engage in this training.

what to bring

The bulk of the time in the water will be spent in normal swimming goggles and board shorts/costumes. So you need those two items.
Bring a wetsuit if you are prone to getting cold. Note if you are going to bring a wetsuit and you have a weight belt bring that too. It is not essential but it will help.
Bring a warm towel.
A good jacket/windsheeter you can put on if you get cold while we are out of the pool. This should be the kind you can pull on over your trunks/cozzie.
A water bottle. You will drink a lot during this workshop so min 1.5l.
Food to snack on during the course. You'll get hungry!
A bag to keep all your gear in while you are in the pool.

If you are doing The Advanced Training you also need to bring:
Lace up shoes that can get wet.
A blindfold.

what to expect

The Swim Free Confidence Underwater Course is not a boot camp or swimming training squad, or competition so you can stop worrying about that now. The day comprises a mixture of theory and practice. So typically we’ll go through the theory then apply it in the pool, then do more theory then apply it and so on. It is all about you getting to learn the processes in your body and to build your confidence layer by layer. We have quite a bit to get through, so if I could ask you all to meet me timeously at the pool that would be great.

If you choose to do the advanced training session expect a thorough workout with multiple hypoxic scenarios arranged in sequence to provide you with a workout program that will assist you to form your own workout groups. Most importantly it will show you how to push your own peak performance in a controlled and safe environment.


John McCarthy is a former provincial, national and professional level competitive surfer. He is a qualified lifeguard who worked professionally on Durban’s South Beach. He currently guides surfing, yoga, freedive, hiking and open water swims in remote wilderness areas. His solo open water swims include; Aliwal Shoal to Greenpoint (first ever) 5km, Greenpoint to Scottburgh (first ever), Durban to Umhlanga Rocks (17km), Ithaca Island to Portuguese Island and back 5km (first ever), Multiple swims in The Maldives, A circumnavigation of the Burge Al Arib in Dubai (5km). He has guided clients in South Africa, The Maldives, Mozambique, Hawaii, Dubai and Namibia. To date over 4500 people across 5 countries have completed the Swim Free Confidence Underwater Workshop.