Many participants of PFI courses taught by Ted Harty have written about his skill in the water, where he indeed is like a “merman:” amazingly, Ted goes down with each diver on every dive, giving feedback during the dive if possible via signals or sounds, and right after surfacing (well, he does wait for you to do the “cleansing” breaths). During the pool time and ocean dives, he proves to be an extremely patient instructor—even when someone like me keeps making the same mistake over and over, say looking down on the descent… Better yet, he has a bag full of tricks to help students handle sticking points (I no longer look down!). What is important to me is not only that he has the credibility in virtue of his national dynamic apnea record, but that he has the know-how to pass on his knowledge, which is what really matters to those of us taking the course.
His in-the-water skills well established by the many other people who have given feedback, I would like to write a few words from the perspective of someone who has been in the “education business” for the past 20 years, as I am a college professor. To describe Ted and his Immersion Freediving Program in four words, these are: passion, professionalism, knowledge, and dedication (I would add patience, but I already wrote about that). Ted is definitely passionate about freediving; it is his life and he acts accordingly. This attitude is contagious—and appreciated at say, an 8 am start for a four-hour lecture. Here is where Ted’s teaching methods and abilities come in, as they are superb. Material that easily lends itself to being dull – physiology of diving, physics – becomes lively and fun through his many anecdotes and stories. More tellingly from an educational stance, they are very well thought-out examples that pull together different strands of material together in a way that enables students to truly understand the material in a seemingly effortless way. I have very rarely encountered this ability to convey the material in such an amenable and pedagogical fashion. This is testament to that professionalism I speak of, as he pays attention to detail on the boat and off the boat, and the latter is where most instructors I have come across tend to fall short. He has obviously thought very carefully about how to deliver crucial material in a way that will make the most sense for the students; and sometimes this means that said knowledge is passed along in bits and pieces that build slowly until the “aha” realization happens whether in class or later in the actual dives. Moreover, when I write dedication, this is to the full extent of the word: not only is he willing to have Skype sessions to help students learn to equalize properly, but while you are in his charge he does the utmost to accommodate your needs: he will do what it takes to get you to the water as confident and capable as feasible; he will stay at the end of the day if need be (no matter how long the day may have been), and give you the attention you need; and he will also ensure that this is a memorable experience you can not only tell about but also show, as he takes video and photos of everyone’s various performances (another way students get to learn by watching and matching sensation to observed movement). That is the great advantage of his small-sized classes, undivided attention, and worth every penny (and more, just don’t tell him!).
As a final aside, I was glad to see that PFI and Ted took the theoretical part of the course seriously. They do not shy from giving technical details or from discussing at length possible risks such as blackouts (unlike the hush-hush attitude I saw when I went through my various scuba certifications to reach the rescue diver level). They do so in a way that ensures you understand the risks, and more importantly teach you how to avoid them and what to do so that no matter what, you will be safe and enjoy freediving as it can be enjoyed.
In short, were you to take a PFI course through Immersion Freediving under the tutelage of Ted, you will come out a far better diver and you will love the whole process not just the result. Take the plunge! (You will be very glad you did).
Jesus Illundain Nov 1-4 2012 Immersion Freediving PFI 4 day Intermediate Course