Byron Kay @konafreediver
How I Learned to Freedive in Hawaii
One sunny Hawaiian day I took some of my friends to Pu'uhonua O' Honaunau also known as 2-step. It's a great place to snorkel, scuba dive, and especially freedive. It's very well protected from swell and has unique terrain. After our dive as we were getting out of the water I looked up and there was this magnificent creature standing above me. She was clutching what appeared to be a mermaid tail and wore a smooth skin wetsuit that made her look like a slippery fish. When I saw her all I could think of was, "I wanna do THAT" and by that I mean freedive of course 😎 After getting the details of how to meet up I headed to the nearest spearfishing shop and bought the best freediving fins I could afford. The stiffest ones of course.
Next week the boys and I had a Poker Night and a Freediving group was meeting the next day so after a bit of a fun night I woke up the next morning and headed down south to Honaunau. On my way I stopped at the coffee shop and picked up a large coffee to help shake the effects from the night before. I then proceeded down to Honaunau where the free divers were meeting and introduced myself, got in the water and began setting up the lines. Honaunau Bay is world-renowned for its calm waters and near short access to deep depths. It’s this combination that makes it the best place to free dive in the United States. We began by doing some pull downs and breath holdes. It was either on my first or second pull down that I was holding onto the line for a couple of minutes and as I began to surface I blacked out. Now if you’ve ever had a blackout you would know that for the person blacking out it’s not obvious what it happened. You basically lose the last 30 seconds of awake time as if you had just been asleep. Then when you wake up everybody staring at you and your mask is off of your face. As it turns out the mermaid who had greeted me was right there to rescue me and had to give me a breath on the mouth to help revive me. This is how I met my wife for the first time. Ever since then I was hooked. I wanted to learn to freedive better.
While blacking out is not a great experience and since then I have taken some freediving courses that taught me how to avoid it, the Freediving aspect is what got me back in the water again and again. The entire experience of diving on the line is very meditative and relaxing and I enjoy it immensely.
Fast forward to a year later. I have been line diving with the freediving group every weekend. Jessica my girlfriend and I are training for a competition. We spend every weekend at Honaunau with a group of freedivers learning to freedive and hone our skills. Over time I found my skills progressing but eventually I would hit a barrier and I could dive no deeper. This would persist for weeks and became very frustrating. It made training more like a chore and I found my positive association with diving began to wane.
We held a competition here in Kona called freedive paradise where freedivers from around the world came to participate and it was great fun. The competition was organized by Annabel Edwards my future mother-in-law. She ran them every year consecutively for quite a few years. This was before there were very many in the world. There's nothing like being in a competition to ignite a spark of desire to improve your freediving focus on training and learn to freedive better.
One of the divers from our group had gotten certified to teach freediving. His name is Hiko Ito. He was diving 80 meters at the time. There were no certified instructors on the island. The only way to learn to freedive was through PFI who visited to teach courses 2 times a year. The course was $800 which was a lot for me back then. Hiko was FII certified the agency that Kona Freedivers teaches now.
In his first course he needed students so I signed up along with Josua Lambus a local photographer and Blackwater guide. During Hiko's level 1 freediver course we went over a lot of concepts I had learnd from my wife but with such great detail and explanation. The safety portion of the course was huge! We had the opportunity to practice safety which I had never done previously. I strongly believe every diver should learn safety in a course environment because there is a lot to it including the understanding of how to do it and why it is important. I got my money's worth on the safety portion alone. Additionally there were some freediving technique tips that were very helpful but if you've read our awesome freediver article you would know I was less concerned with those 😎
Jessica and I got married. We had 2 sons and I bought a dive business in Kona called Kona Honu Divers. There I wanted to provide a place for all of the freedivers since Kona doesn't have anything geared towards them. I founded Kona Freedivers in 2016. Kona Freedivers has always been a passion of mine and so I took the freediving instructor course and eventually passed. I was a scuba instructor previously and I taught a lot of courses but ended up not enjoying it. With freediving I find it much more enjoyable to share the love and I would teach free freediving courses because they are so much fun to learn to freedive. It's my passion and I couldn't imagine doing anything else.
To learn to freedive with Kona Freedivers visit us at: https://www.konafreedivers.com/freediving-training