Surf Apnea Mastery: Unleashing the Power of CO2 Tables

surf apnea wellness coaching

In surf apnea, mastering your body adapt to low levels of CO2 tables isn’t just a skill; it’s your passport to conquering longer hold-downs and surf challenges with newfound confidence. Why Train your body to adapt to CO2 levels??

Mastering CO2 tables is your gateway to longer hold-downs and greater confidence in the surf. Embrace this journey, and you’ll witness the transformative power of improved surf apnea skills. Trust the process; soon, you’ll conquer the waves like never before. 🏄‍♂️

However, these advantages extend to so many people, including competitive freedivers, open-water swimmers, spearfishermen, and lifeguards. Even to those seeking stress management, yoga and meditation practitioners, and outdoor enthusiasts. The skill of controlled breath-holding offers practical benefits beyond surfing, such as improved safety, performance, and stress management in different contexts.

What is a CO2 Table?

Definition: CO2 tables are an example of a structured breath-holding training method meticulously designed to improve your ability to handle elevated CO2 levels underwater. This technique involves controlled breath-holding cycles and a recovery phase, gradually increasing in duration and intensity over time.

increase your breath hold time with co2 tables

In-Depth Explanation:

So why do we breathe?

Well, most people would say lack of oxygen, right??

While that is true, it’s not the reason we get the urge to breathe; that comes down to the chemoreceptors in our body responding to the rise in blood CO2.

CO2 tables, short for carbon dioxide tables, are fundamental to surf apnea training. These training tables focus on your body and respiratory system’s response to rising CO2 levels during extended breath-holding, a crucial skill for surfers and water enthusiasts.

The training method involves a series of timed breath-holds and recovery periods. During each cycle, you’ll hold your breath for a specific duration, pushing your limits while maintaining control. As you progress through the tables, the maximum breath hold-holding intervals become progressively longer, challenging your body to adapt to increased CO2 buildup.

The key principle behind CO2 tables is to familiarise your body with rising CO2 levels and train it to remain calm and composed in the face of discomfort. This skill is invaluable for surfers who may encounter situations where longer breath-holds at elevated levels of carbon dioxide are necessary, such as navigating challenging surf conditions, waiting for the perfect wave, or handling hold-downs.

By systematically increasing your CO2 tolerance through CO2 table training, you’ll develop more tolerance and the capacity to endure longer periods without taking a breath, ultimately enhancing your surf performance and safety. Moreover, this technique promotes mental resilience, as maintaining composure during breath-holding challenges is equally important as physical conditioning.

In summary, CO2 tables are a structured and progressive breath hold training method tailored to improve your breath-holding capabilities, particularly in high-CO2 environments underwater. This skill is essential for surfers seeking to maximise their breath hold time in the water and confidently confront the demands of the surf.

Step 1 – Preparation Phase

dive, girl, hold your breath

Exercise: Breath-Hold Visualization

  • Explanation: Visualization is a powerful tool to prepare your mind and body for breath-hold training, much like surfers mentally rehearse their rides before hitting the waves.
  • Execution: Find a quiet, comfortable space. Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths. As you inhale, imagine the ocean waves rising gently, and as you exhale, picture them receding. Visualise yourself in a serene underwater world, calmly exploring while holding your breath. This exercise helps you mentally prepare for the training ahead, just as surfers mentally prepare for their surf sessions.

Step 2 – Initial Breath-Holds

Exercise: Box Breathing

  • Explanation: Box breathing is a controlled breathing technique that enhances breath control, much like surfers control their paddling to catch waves effectively.
  • Execution: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Inhale deeply through your nose for four seconds, imagining you’re paddling smoothly towards a wave. Hold your breath for four seconds, mirroring the moment just before you take off on a wave. Exhale slowly and steadily for four seconds as if riding the wave with grace. Finally, pause for four seconds before repeating the cycle. This exercise helps you practice controlled breath-holding and sets the foundation for longer durations.

Follow along with my box breathing exercise on Instagram

Step 3 – Progressive Challenges

Exercise: Incremental Breath-Hold Extensions

  • Explanation: This exercise mirrors the gradual progression surfers experience as they tackle increasingly larger waves.
  • Execution: Start with a comfortable baseline breath-hold duration for you, let’s say 30 seconds. In each training session, aim to extend your breath-hold by just a few seconds, such as 5 seconds. For example, aim for 35 seconds on day one, and on day two, target 40 seconds. Continue this incremental approach, gradually challenging your breath-hold capacity. This exercise mimics the step-by-step progression surfers use when transitioning to bigger waves.

Step 4 – Maintaining Calmness

lotus, flower, lily pad

Exercise: Mindful Breath Awareness

  • Explanation: This exercise cultivates a sense of calm and presence during breath-holding, similar to how surfers maintain composure in the lineup.
  • Execution: Find a quiet space and sit comfortably. Close your eyes and focus all your attention on your breath. As you inhale and exhale, notice the sensation of the breath in your nostrils or the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen. Whenever your mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to your breath. This practice enhances mindfulness and helps you stay calm during longer breath holds, just as surfers remain focused amidst the chaos of the waves.

Different Breathing Exercises Carbon Dioxide Drills

Exercise 1 – One Breath Table

Take one full exhale and one full inhale and hold for 1:00 minute.

Repeat 8 times or until it becomes too difficult. This table takes much less time to complete than the classic CO2 table; as contractions kick in, CO2 blood levels increase much earlier, and rest time is minimised.

Exercise 2 – Dynamic 2-person burpee Drill

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  1. Person 2 starts by performing one burpee, whilst Person 1 adopts a static (stationary) squat position and holds their breath.
  2. Once person 2 completes the first burpee, they immediately holds their breath and adopt the static squat position, maintaining it for the time it takes person 1 to perform their one burpee and return to the static squat position. Recovery breathing is performed during the burpee phase.
  3. After both person 1 and 2 have completed their first burpee, the sequence is repeated with two burpees and so on until each person has performed five burpees. This is the top of the pyramid.
  4. Once both person 1 and 2 have completed 5 burpees each, the process is repeated but in a descending manner, finishing once both person 1 and 2 have completed the last single burpee.
  5. Burpee pyramid (1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 4 , 3 , 2 , 1) = Total 25 burpees.

Once the entire pyramid is completed, both persons walk at an easy pace for 2 minutes, breathing lightly in and out through their noses only.

Exercise 3 – Pool Session with buddy only

pool apnea training

The objective is to dive 25m in one breath, surface at the pool’s edge, and recover. You choose how much time you have to rest, recover, and breathe slowly to help reset the nervous and respiratory systems.

You can repeat this 10 times; try to keep the total time for the table as short as possible. An advantage of this table is that it is up to you how challenging it is, whether you take quite a lot longer or shorter recovery time. After a few practices, you can set new time limits to train against.

Incorporating these exercises into your CO2 table training regimen will improve your breath-holding capacity and enhance your overall surf apnea skills.

Advanced CO2 Training Table for 5-Minute Breath-Hold

WeekSessionHold Time (seconds)Rest Time (seconds)Notes
114590Focus on relaxation and slow, deep breaths
25085Concentrate on diaphragmatic breathing
35580Practice mental imagery and positive visualization
216075Emphasize CO2 tolerance development
26570Focus on managing discomfort
37065Implement advanced relaxation techniques
Training for a 3-minute breath-hold time requires a structured and progressive approach. Here’s an example of an advanced CO2 training table tailored for reaching a 3 minute breath hold.

Advanced CO2 Training Table for 5-Minute Breath-Hold

WeekSessionHold Time (seconds)Rest Time (seconds)Notes
114590Focus on relaxation and slow, deep breaths
25085Concentrate on diaphragmatic breathing
35580Practice mental imagery and positive visualization
216075Emphasize CO2 tolerance development
26570Focus on managing discomfort
37065Implement advanced relaxation techniques
Training for a 5-minute breath-hold time, especially for competition divers, requires a structured and progressive approach. Here’s an example of an advanced CO2 training table tailored for competition divers aiming to achieve this goal:

Key Considerations for Successful CO2 Table Mastery:

Breathing Exercises:

yoga, exercise, fitness

Much like a surfer mastering the art of reading the waves, your journey to getting CO2 tables involves exploring advanced breathing techniques tailored to surf apnea. As seasoned surfers anticipate the subtle nuances of wave patterns, you’ll delve into the intricacies of managing your breath in the underwater realm.

Explore diaphragmatic breathing, rhythmic breath cycles, and controlled exhalations to optimise your breath-holding capacity. These techniques are your keys to riding the waves of extended breath-holds with precision and control.

Safety Guidelines:

Safety is the bedrock of any booming surf or surf apnea adventure. Like surfers who respect the ocean’s power, you must prioritise safety throughout your training journey. Embrace a safety-first mindset, like checking your surfboard and assessing wave conditions before paddling out.

This approach to static training involves crucial elements like training partners for supervision equipment checks to ensure reliability and a thorough understanding of your training environment. Just as surfers heed tide and swell forecasts, understanding your training environment’s dynamics is paramount.

Mental Resilience:

Surfing demands not only physical prowess but also unwavering mental resilience. Similarly, developing a strong mental game is integral to surf apnea. Consider it akin to the mental preparation surfers undertake before tackling towering waves. You’ll harness mindfulness, positive visualisation, and breath awareness to cultivate a mental fortress.

This fortress ensures calmness and unwavering focus during the challenges of extended breath-holding. These mental techniques are your secret weapon for conquering the breath-holding peaks, just as surfers conquer the waves’ peaks with unwavering determination.

Taking it to the Next Level: Advanced Surf Apnea Skills

pool, water, men

Visualisation Techniques: Imagine surfers mentally rehearsing their rides before taking on the waves. Similarly, you can enhance your breath-holding through visualisation. Visualise yourself in absolute control, gracefully gliding through longer breath-holds like a surfer riding the perfect wave. Visualisation techniques are your mental surfboard, allowing you to ride the waves of extended breath-holding with confidence and precision. As surfers visualise the ideal wave, you’ll visualise your ideal breath-holding experience.

Cold Water Training:

Embracing cold water training is akin to surfers seeking the thrill of big-wave surfing in frigid waters. It’s a challenge that takes your surf apnea skills to new heights.

Cold water presents unique challenges and rewards, enhancing your adaptability and resilience. Consider it as surfing in colder waters to test your mettle and readiness for any conditions. Cold water becomes your training ground, pushing your limits and preparing you for the unexpected.

Photo from my cold water immersion instructor course on the gold coast. Thanks to Jason Rice @apneasurvival

Apnea Workshops:

Surf apnea workshops offer the equivalent of surf camps for breath-holding enthusiasts. These workshops provide expert guidance and a supportive community of like-minded individuals. It’s a platform where you can learn from seasoned surf apnea experts, share your experiences with fellow enthusiasts, and fine-tune your skills under professional supervision. Think of these workshops as your surf coaching sessions dedicated to breath-holding excellence, just as surfers benefit from coaching to enhance their wave-riding prowess.

See my surf apnea guide for a list of the best course providers.

Alternatives to CO2 Tables

Static Apnea: Imagine surfers exploring various surf breaks to diversify their experience. Similarly, you can explore an alternative breath-holding method known as static apnea. Static apnea focuses on breath-holding without movement, enhancing your overall abilities.

Yoga and Meditation: Like surfers who practice yoga to enhance their flexibility and balance, you can discover how yoga and meditation complement your surf apnea training. These practices improve breath control, mental focus, and overall well-being. Think of them as your holistic approach to surf apnea, similar to maintaining a balanced surf training regimen. Yoga and meditation become your tools for achieving inner balance and enhanced breath awareness.

For more specific stretches designed for surfers to increase flexibility to improve performance on the waves, have a look at my article Essential Stretches for Surfers. Or if you want more on the best yoga poses for surfers look here.

woman, shark, great white shark

Surf Apnea Apps: Surf apnea apps serve as your digital companions on the journey to breath-holding excellence. These apps are designed to assist in surf apnea training, offering timers, progress tracking, and even guided sessions. Consider them your digital surf buddies, accompanying you on your breath-holding adventures.

Wrapping Up and My Experience With CO2 Tables

Mastering CO2 tables is your gateway to longer hold-downs and greater confidence in the surf. Embrace this journey, and you’ll witness the transformative power of improved surf apnea skills. Trust the process, and soon, you’ll conquer the waves like never before. 🏄‍♂️

My Personal Experience: As a surf apnea instructor and avid surfer, I’ve witnessed the remarkable impact that CO2 table training can have on individuals, both in the water and in everyday life. Beyond the physical gains in breath-holding capacity, the mental fortitude developed during these training sessions truly stands out.

Surfing and surf apnea demands more than physical prowess; they require a profound mental ability to push through discomfort and uncertainty. I’ve seen countless individuals, including myself, experience this transformation firsthand. The ability to breathe and stay calm, focused, and in complete control during challenging situations underwater has a ripple effect extending far beyond the waves.

In the surf, it’s about managing stress when facing powerful waves or unexpected wipeouts. The mental resilience gained from CO2 table training empowers surfers to remain composed and make split-second decisions in high-pressure situations. This cognitive skill set is life-changing, as it enhances your performance in the water and equips you to handle high and low levels of stress and adversity in everyday life.

surf apnea instructor course

Surf Apnea survival instructor course

Whether you’re navigating the challenges of a massive set wave or dealing with the stresses of work, relationships, or daily responsibilities, the principles of managing stress remain consistent. CO2 table training serves as a ground for building mental strength, allowing you to face discomfort with composure and confidently overcome obstacles.

So, as you embark on your journey to master CO2 tables, remember that the benefits extend far beyond the surf. It’s a path to self-discovery, mental resilience, and a profound sense of accomplishment that will serve you well in the waves and the ever-changing tides of life. 🌊🤙

For more info on overcoming fear in the surf and overcoming anxiety about surfing bigger waves – check this article out.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are CO2 tables useful?

A: Yes, CO2 tables are helpful for individuals looking to improve their breath-holding capacity, especially in activities like freediving, surfing, and competitive breath-hold sports. They train the body to tolerate higher levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) at body, and less oxygen, leading to a lower breathing rate and longer breath-hold times underwater.

Q: How often should I do CO2 tables?

A. CO2 trainingand the frequency of CO2 table training depend on your fitness level and goals. Typically, beginners might start with 2-3 sessions per week, while advanced practitioners can train daily or every other day. It’s essential to listen to your body and progress gradually to avoid overtraining.

Q: What do CO2 tables do?

A: CO2 tables are a structured training method designed to gradually increase your tolerance to elevated CO2 levels gradually. They help you improve your breath-holding ability, allowing you to stay underwater longer with greater comfort and control.

Q: What is the difference between a CO2 table and O2 table?

A: CO2 tolerance tables focus on increasing tolerance to excess carbon dioxide (CO2), while O2 tables aim to improve oxygen utilisation and tolerance. O2 tables involve repeated breath-holding with shorter recovery times between breath-holds.

Q: Are O2 or CO2 tables better?

A: The choice between O2 and both CO2 and o2 tables depends on your specific goals. both CO2 and o2 tables are more commonly used for breath-hold sports like freediving, while O2 tables enhance oxygen efficiency. The choice should align with your training objectives.

Click here for my article on O2 tables

Q: How often should you do apnea tables?

A: The frequency of apnea (CO2 or O2) table training should be tailored to your experience level and goals. Beginners may start with 2-3 sessions per week, while experienced individuals can train more frequently. Always prioritize safety and gradual progression.

Q: How many CO2 tables a day?

A: The number of CO2 tables you do in a day depends on your fitness level and training program. Beginners may start with more than one table session per day, while advanced practitioners might incorporate multiple sessions with adequate rest between them.

Q: What is a hold down in surfing?

A: A hold down in surfing occurs when a surfer is held underwater by the force of a wave. It can be a challenging and potentially dangerous situation, requiring surfers to hold their breath until they are free divers resurface.

Q: How long will a 10-foot wave hold you down?

A: The duration a 10-foot wave holds down a surfer can vary significantly depending on wave conditions, the surfer’s skill, and other factors. It could range from 30 seconds to over a minute. Surfing experience and breath-holding skills are essential for handling hold-downs safely.

Q: How long do surfers have to hold their breath for?

A: The duration surfers need to hold their breath varies depending on wave conditions, the situation, and the surfer’s skill level. It can range from a few seconds during a quick duck dive to over a minute in challenging hold-down situations.

Q: Is apnea training good for you?

A: Apnea training, whether for surfing or freediving, can have several benefits, including improved breath-holding capacity, enhanced mental focus, and greater overall fitness. However, it should be approached with caution, proper guidance, and safety measures to prevent risks associated with extended breath-holding. Always consult with a qualified instructor if you’re new to apnea training.

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