At the end of November, I spotted this article in Surfing Magazine: http://www.surfingmagazine.com/blogs/surprise-apnea-for-surfers/#.ULeAVgSxckI.twitter

This article got me thinking. I’ve spent the last year struggling with my surfing, mostly struggling with fear. I took a few pretty good beatings last winter. One where my ears ached, where all I could see was dark water. One where I gasped at the surface only to suck in foam. More than one where I felt lucky to be all right.

I’m not sure if it was the size of the wave, the character of the break, or the fact that I was being drug through the wash by my longboard, but it felt like an eternity under water.

I don’t have the most confidence in my lungs. I’ve had asthma on and off. I get barking coughs with the slightest colds. Having my lungs tested by brute force was a bit terrifying. Sure, I made it through the hold downs from last winter, but part of me wonders if I could make it through the next. That part of me pulls out of waves I should have made. That part of me sits too far outside for my little board. That part of me is frustrating the heck out of the rest of me.

This class seemed like exactly what I needed.

There are much better articles about what you’ll learn from Hanli’s class, including this one by Cynthia. I’ll spare you the lecture (it’s better first hand anyway) and summarize what I learned instead.

Hanli teaches you an amazing amount about what your body does to survive under water. She focuses on yoga, relaxation, the mechanics of the dive reflect, and some swimming intervals. I highly recommend reading up on it and catching her class if you can.

From this class I learned I have a much greater capacity to hold my breath under water than I thought. I managed to go two minutes before I started having diaphragm contractions (the first hurdle one much get over in holding their breath.)

My first attempt was cut short by my typical roadblock: the mind game. I went through the breathing exercises. I waited fro Hanli’s go ahead, then took a big breath, belly, chest, and shoulders. I flipped over and waited. Maybe a minute or less, I started feeling like I had to swallow. Crap. There’s no good way to swallow in a dive mask. Now I’m thinking about swallowing. I’m thinking about how I’m laying face down in a pool. I’m wondering how long it’s been. I’m distracted and I’ve already started to fret. I gave up. I didn’t even get the time from Hanli. Shoot.

My second attempt I worked much harder on the mental aspect of it. I watched the seabirds fly overhead while doing my breathing exercises and tried to keep that image in mind while floating face down. This attempt went much better. Again, I didn’t get a time, Hanli said later it was about 2 and a half. Wile it may have been closer to 2:20 and certainly the shortest out of the whole class, it’s sill much longer than I’ve been able to hold my breath (while counting, who knows how long I was down on some of those waves.)

The interval training kicked my butt, I should probably start lap swimming, but overall I left the course with greater confidence. I now know that if I can stay calm I can last about two minutes. Hopefully I won’t have to.

Even with the class, I’m still struggling with fear. Even telling myself it’s going to be okay, I’m still feeling like there’s a big bubble of air in my gut and I can’t breathe. I’ll take some work. Hanli sent us homework to do to keep in breath-holding shape and I’m hoping to keep practicing the yoga exercises.

The greatest challenge will be the head game. Still, it’s nice to know I’ve got a little lung power on my side.