A friend attended his freediving course in Cebu; this is how I heard about him and his school. In 2009, I went to take the same course and finally met the man behind the first freediving school in the Philippines. Wolfgang Dafert is the founder of Freediving-Philippines based in Moalboal, Cebu. Under his tutelage, I got my formal lesson in freediving.
Having lived and trained in other freediving hotpsots, I asked Wolfgang why did he choose the Philippines. He didn’t hesitate to answer me: “I love freediving, but I need more than that and so I got tired of Egypt” (Worldwide number 1 freediving destination).
To him Philippines is “diving and more”; easy living, everybody speaks English, plenty of outdoor activities and being surrounded by the most happy and friendly people on this planet.
He added that the warm and deep waters of the Philippines make it a perfect place for freediving. Also, he liked that one can dive in the Philippines year round.
Getting Up Close and Personal.
Wolfgang got to know about freediving when he started learning about the safety risks in snorkeling. Later on, he joined a club. In just a few months he set a national record in Static and did it twice.
A believer of looking within, his motivation for training is not the goal but the journey in achieving it. He described it as “the path going there.” Even when preparing for competitions, he only tries to focus on enjoying the path, letting himself fall into a deep quiet immersion within himself; a complete freedom in every possible way. He related that the goal would follow as he enjoys “the path going there.”
Safety and Continued Progress.
He strongly recommends proper education to anyone new to freediving. Without that education, Freediving – especially done alone – can be a very dangerous activity. Too many lost their lives from shallow water black out – a situation that can easily be managed following simple safety procedures.
Often competitive freedivers get stuck at a certain level and don’t know how to improve. Living and diving an approach comparable to the Japanese way of Kaizen – a continued progress of improvements – can help in these situations. Wolfgang encourages new freedivers to never take things for granted or fixed. He also challenges them to question everything that comes along the way but at the same time act systematic: to think of it as a never-ending circle of: planning – doing – evaluating – changing.
Learning from the Locals.
Many don’t know that Freediving has a strong history in the Philippines. In the southernmost part of the country, a tribe known as the Bajausor Sea Gypsies is found. One of the greatest pioneers in freediving, the late Jaques Mayol, already discovered these nomadic people during his travels more than 25 years ago. These people’s lives are so closely related to the sea that their children already know how to freedive as early as 5 to 6 years of age.
Wolfgang is since 2 years doing intense research and also diving with the Bajau people. He started doing this because he realized that Jaques Mayol very much underestimated the depths some Bajau can dive to. Wolfgang is now diving in their special dive style, using new techniques and wants to learn as much as possible from them. Only the future will tell if some of his findings eventually make it into the encyclopedias of freediving.
Get to know more about Wolfgang through his site.
Note: All photos used with permission.