I didn’t think opening a Freediving Training Center was in my future when I started the sport.  As a freediving athlete, there are several ways to support yourself financially. One of them is to invest your time into looking for sponsors while developing a “brand” around your name. 

It takes time to develop, and you need to spend a lot of time on social media, sharing about your training, your competitions, and your personal life constantly.  Then, you can develop partnerships with places as to where to train and propose some workshops and conferences. Once your name is known enough, it can be very lucrative. 

In my case, it took a long time before I saw myself as an athlete. When I started freediving, and for a long time after, I never imagined I would eventually become a top athlete. So this first option of making my name a “brand” and looking for sponsors was definitely not in my mind. 

Since I wanted to make a living out of freediving, I decided to open a freediving school. Along the way, I got the opportunity to take over one in the Philippines, Freedive HQ. This came with a lot of work, especially during the first two years. To keep training while teaching and managing the freediving shop was quite challenging. Still, after an initially tough couple of years, the business started doing well enough that  I could afford to hire a manager. 

I could train more and travel several months a year for competitions. My freediving school became my own sponsor. This was also about the time I made it as a top athlete. That’s when I realized this was as good as any sponsor to fund my career as an athlete, and this would be more sustainable as well. 

The shop would probably be running long after I stopped competing. This removed a lot of pressure from me and also gave me the luxury of not depending on any sponsor and not feeling any pressure to produce results when going to the competition. 

This does not mean that sponsors are not welcome, and I was lucky to have received one even before I was a very deep diver. I could also choose my sponsors for good reasons. One of these is the quality of the equipment they give me and not only the financial support that goes with the sponsorship. 

I respect people that spend hours on social media to promote themselves, but it is just not my thing, and I find it quite tedious and exhausting at the same time. Instead, I would teach a course or run a shop to make money rather than post pictures and stories of myself all the time. This is why I chose this business model of having a freediving school while being an athlete.

I sold Freedive HQ just before the pandemic because I wanted to relocate to a more quiet and green place. I was also looking for a location in the Philippines where conditions would be so good that I would be able to put a freediving platform for my own training first, then potentially organize depth competitions as well. 

Furthermore, in Freedive HQ, I was only renting the land, and I wanted that in my future project, I would be the owner of the land (yes, it is possible in the Philippines, with a good lawyer, and through a company). Let’s say I was fortunate in the timing as I sold in November 2019. 

I would recommend to any person who wants to open a freediving business (which might be true for other companies too) to go in with at least another business partner. You can share the stress, pressure,  and of course, the work. It made it much easier mentally than when I took over Freedive HQ by myself. Of course, you need to go with someone you trust, but being at least two is a huge plus. 

After a lot of research on maps and then visiting quite a few islands, we found the perfect spot for us in Camotes Island, located in the Visayas region of the Philippines.  Sea conditions are lovely, but the island is also very accessible. (2-hour ferry from Cebu International Airport). What I love the most is that it is still tranquil, chill, and green, with no traffic and a lot of space. 

There is a decent small hospital nearby, and if there should be a need, it’s easy to get to Cebu Hospital quickly. This is an important consideration when you are starting a business. We found a beautiful land, and then Camotes Freediving training center was born, but then the pandemic struck.

It took 2 years because of the pandemic to have the center built. However, we are now finally back in the Philippines and finalizing the last details. We are planning to open 1st of June 2022, exactly 2.5 years after finding the land.

The costs involved depend on the land’s price and the size of the shop you want to build. We wanted a 25m swimming pool with 2 lanes and we built a 110 sqm freediving shop coupled with living quarters for us above the shop of the same size and in a very modern and beautiful style.  If you do rent and don’t build such a big and fancy shop, you can have your own shop for much cheaper. 

In terms of freediving equipment plus the boat, buoys, oxygen tanks (for decompression and for medical in the shop), training aids, whiteboard, TV, a nice website developed by professionals, etc., everything you need for a high-end freediving shop in the Philippines, I would say that 20,000 US dollars will enable  you to start your freediving business with 2-3 instructors. For reference, we bought 20 wetsuits, 20 pair of fins, 50 masks and snorkel, 20 weight belts, 6 buoys, 500m of rope, 100kg of weight, lot of fancy training aids such as professional spirometer, 3D models of ear, lungs, skeleton, endoscope, and a 22×7 feet brand new wooden + fiberglass boat with 40hp engine. 

As you see, this is not for a tiny shop with only one instructor . You also need to consider the administrative costs: working permits and visa, business permit for the shop, accounting company and lawyer. Don’t underestimate these costs of a freediving training center and get the information in advance.  

My advice, for your first freediving training center shop, would be to start small with minimal charges and then grow it little by little. From my first experience in Freedive HQ, in South East Asia, freediving is absolutely booming. All schools are thriving, a lot of competitions and events are organized and they are full most of the time. Opening a freediving business is definitely a good idea and will work with a minimum of good work ethics and common sense. It can definitely allow you to live comfortably and in my case to fund my competitions and travels. 

At Camotes Freediving training center, we will be proposing courses and training for all levels, from beginner to professional, as well as a kids program. We are also planning to organize competitions both in swimming pool and for depth. The idea is to go for quality and a small number of students. 

We want to keep it at a manageable size since it will only be myself handling everything from teaching to coaching. We will probably have one or two instructors with us, but that’s it. As a reference, in Freedive HQ, I had 10 full time instructors and some freelancers, plus a restaurant, and 8 accommodations. We will also propose long-term trainings and training camps on a regular basis. 

We are located on an extensive land full of fruit trees (banana, coconut, pomelos, rambutan, guava, mango, avocado,) and with our own access to the sea. The sea is 40m from the shop and the swimming pool directly on the land. Everything had been built with the thought to make the life of the students and instructors as easy as possible, based on our previous experience.  

Before launching your freediving training center business, work in different freediving training centers for a while. I did not do it enough before taking over my first freediving training center, and I know now that all this experience would have made my life much easier.

Still, a freediving training center is, in my opinion, a great investment at the moment. The sport is really growing and will keep growing for a while. The investment is not so big and you can make a very decent living out of it.