Here at Deepblu we meet a lot of great and interesting divers, but it’s rare that we get the privilege of talking to a school that’s completely dedicated to freediving. This is why, this week, we’re incredibly glad to get a chance to hear from Kirill Popov from Freedive Nusa.
Located on the calm shores of Nusa Penida, just southeast of Bali, Freedive Nusa has found a perfect escape for those looking to get away from the hustle of its larger neighbor to the north. In addition to freediving courses they also offer such eclectic and exciting activities as yoga and underwater dance. But hey, let’s let Kirill tell you a bit about it!
In 2016 you found that Nusa Penida was the paradise you had always been searching for, where else had you been and what ultimately influenced your decision?
Me and my wife were traveling and living in Asia since 2010. We were freediving a lot in Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt.
And we were always searching for place which we can call as “home” and where we can open our own freediving school.
There are lot of parameters: interesting underwater world, good conditions for teaching freediving, popular enough as tourist destination, developed infrastructure for comfortable living, not much competition with other schools, and so on.
Finally, Nusa Penida has all these parameters for us.
On your website you mention the “freediving lifestyle.” What does freediving mean to you?
I think freediving is changing people’s behavior. At least it changed a lot in my life. My life became simpler and less demanding. Freediving teaches me how to enjoy very simple thing in my life. Such as a deep inhale after the dive.
Also, freediving itself attracts some kind of specific people. In my opinion freediving is a very good filter of people. When I compare our students with customers of surf schools on Bali or scuba diving centers I can definitely see the difference. And I’m always very happy that freediving attracts these people.
Most of them following a kind of healthy lifestyle, practicing yoga, interested in some mindfulness practices, like to challenge themselves and so on. I never meet any assholes in freediving.
What are the ups and downs of running a freediving school versus what it might be like running a scuba school?
Freediving is very niche market. It is not mass market as scuba diving. Even for scuba divers freediving is not well known. We regularly have some walk-in customers who come to the school, ask about scuba diving and don’t know what freediving means. They just see word “diving” or even ask “why do you offer free diving? Is it really for free?”
Also, we are not so dependent on high and low season like scuba divers.
Yana teaches underwater dance and underwater massage. How do these methods work?
Yana is a watsu and aguahara therapist. Watsu is a kind of massage and relaxation technique in water. For me, personally, this is the deepest relaxation which can be achieved. When you are in warm water supported by a therapist you can totally release your deepest muscles.
We both teach and dance contact improvisation in water. During the last 8 years we’ve organized a festival in Thailand.
Contact improvisation in water is a partner dance form, emerging from sharing physical contact in a playful, cooperative way. The movers let the physical forces such as mass, momentum, or buoyancy lead them into the unknown. As no one decides where to go, they engage deeply in a nonverbal communication, where they listen to which dance wants to grow at the present moment.
Usually it happens in shallow water where you can stand. During this dance you can reach a meditative state of mind – attentive, alert, and at the same time relaxed. Besides this, we learn how to help the other to let go of tensions, transmitting to our partner the state of non-doing through bodily contact and through the very simple fact of just quiet presence.
Both of these techniques can be very helpful for freedivers and we use them in the school. For experienced freedivers it helps to reach a deeper level of relaxation. For beginners who are not confident in water and have some fears it can be a great way to work with these fears, to feel themselves more relaxed in water and to really enjoy it.
You also offer yoga instruction. Is there an intersection between yoga and freediving?
There are lot of intersections. Freediving and yoga is kind of cliche in modern freediving.
Probably all freediving schools offer both of them.
It can used as a stretching routine and way to develop more fluidity in the body. Especially in the chest area and diaphragm when we speak about deep freediving.
Breathing exercises, pranayamas, and meditation can be very useful for freedivers as well.
I usually say “freediving is the deepest meditation ever.”
You’ve taken extraordinary steps to contribute to sustainable tourism on the island such as Trash Hero. Can you tell our readers about that and other efforts?
We define Nusa Penida as our home and we are just trying to do as much as we can to make it a cleaner and better place for living.
Indonesia has a big problem with plastic pollution. This is biggest polluter after China. It affects all of us. Even business-wise, nobody wants to dive while surrounded by so much plastic waste. In our vision it should be a priority for any dive center.
This is why we organize weekly clean-ups on the island, do some educational programs for children from local schools, promote free refill stations for drinking water, try to keep our business in sustainable way, encourage other people and businesses to avoid single-use plastics, and support any eco-initiatives on the island, such as developing proper waste management systems.
Back to your shop. What kind of courses do you offer and which are popular with visitors?
Of course, the most popular course is our Basic Freediving Course. It takes 2 full days and usually if people do not have problem with equalization (which is main obstacle in freediving) after these days they can dive to 10-20 meters on a one single breath.
We do not have goals in exact numbers. While teaching freediving our goal is enjoyment and the smiles of our students while having time in water.
Also, as Bali is very popular destination for surfers we have a specific course – Freediving for Surfers or Surf Survival. Everyone who surfs has faced to panic in wipe-outs. So a freediver’s knowledge and skills can be very useful for them to develop confidence in big waves.
What do people like to do on Nusa Penida when they’re not in the water getting fit and exploring?
There is so beautiful nature here. Most of the tourists come to the island to explore its natural attractions. Huge cave temple, fascinating views from high cliffs, beautiful beaches, friendly locals, and a relaxing rural atmosphere.
Nusa Penida is Bali 20 years ago.
Anything else you’d like to tell us before we go?
Unfortunately there are lot of myths and fears about freediving even between scuba divers.
Forget about them and just try!
Immersing along coral walls, diving with graceful manta rays, swimming with whale sharks, practicing deep water dives, when you see only the rope passing by, dynamic and static apnea…
Freediving is very diverse!
Everyone can dive! And everyone can find his or her interest in all this diversity.
– Todd Allen Williams, Senior Editor