Marlon Quinn’s freediving journey began with a chance encounter with a ray. Today, he is a passionate Freediving Instructor and founder of WaterMaarq Freediving in Victoria, Australia. We asked him about his love for freediving and where he hopes to see it in the next few years.
What inspired you to start freediving?
My freediving journey began with an encounter with a stingray in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria about a decade ago. I was snorkelling off Brighton Beach, when I came face to face with the 1.5m-wide Eagle Ray.
We both had a moment of surprise, I was a bit frightened and so was he. As a competitive cyclist I’ve performed in some very tough and high-risk situations, and I didn’t like that I was uncomfortable. I wanted to learn how to be calmer in the water and more in tune with the environment.
The stingray eventually became the iconic logo of WaterMaarq Freediving.
What do you enjoy most about freediving?
I come from an athletic and competitive background. I’m always pushed to the limits and striving to reach my goals but when I freedive I’m in a calm, quiet place where my mind is free from worldly distractions.
The real enjoyment in freediving comes from exploring your capabilities in a different manner. The more you let go of your goals and expectations, the easier it gets and the more comfortable you’ll be. It’s a beautiful feeling. Freediving is elegant and graceful, which comes from a place of acceptance and ease.
Which freediving discipline do you prefer and why?
Learning to freedive is like assembling a toolkit, you need all the right skills to perform your best.
- Static skills (motionless breath holding while laying on the surface) allow you to develop self-awareness and strong mental management;
- Dynamic skills (swimming underwater laps) in the pool develop fantastic finning technique and streamlining and;
- Constant Weight skills (freediving vertically to depth) bring adaptation to pressure change and sound equalisation technique.
For me, it’s the combination of these disciplines that makes a strong and competent freediver who can dive anywhere in any conditions.
What are some of your favourite freediving locations and why?
My favourite freediving locations aren’t typical ones. In southern parts of Australia you’ll see diversity like nowhere else – there are freshwater sinkholes, kelp reefs, sponge gardens, rock formations, plunging walls and caves. The temperate waters here are a few degrees cooler than tropical waters, but with 80% of species in this environment not found anywhere else on earth, it’s an adventure every time.
Rich blue waters of the Tasman Peninsula region in Tasmania offer steep cliffs plunging deep into the water with strong features and big fish. Here you’ll find some of the most spectacular freediving sites in cooler waters!
The crystal clear waters of South Australia’s freshwater sinkhole environment makes divers feel like they’re suspended in outer space. We run our advanced freediving courses here (and advanced level excursions) because of the magnificent feeling of depth and the effortless freefall.
The ultimate location for me though is around the ocean-facing beaches on the Mornington Peninsula, around Blairgowrie where WaterMaarq Freediving is based.
We’re spoilt here because we have the relatively protected Port Phillip Bay on one side and the ocean on the other. We enjoy the company of Burrunan Dolphins, Weedy Seadragons and Smooth Stingrays – my personal favourite species and the largest of all Australian stingrays, growing up to 4.2m long, 2m wide and 350kg. When the conditions are right, the ocean-facing beaches offer vibrant colour, abundant growth, swim-throughs, overhangs, crevices, gullies, caves and bits and pieces of shipwrecks from the 19th century. It’s truly amazing under the surface!
What’s your favourite marine life encounter?
Every time I dive I think I have a new favourite encounter!
Most recently, my favourite has been staring eye-to-eye with a Longsnout Boarfish – a very ornate looking species endemic to Australia.
Before that is was being surrounded by hundreds of Australian Salmon circling like a bait-ball which was being herded by a dolphin or juvenile Seahorses about 1.5cm-3cm big floating by attached to blades of grass.
I’m looking forward to enjoying the annual spider crab migration that occurs just before winter as the water temperature cools. During this time, thousands of spider crabs enter the shallows to moult and mate. It’s a theatre of magnitude as the interplay between crabs, stingrays and jellyfish work to try and survive before the spider crabs return to somewhere in Port Phillip Bay and the location of which remains a secret that marine scientists are still studying.
What’s on the horizon for you in regards to freediving?
As a freediver I’m not ambitious.
The sports arena is spotted with professional athletes who seek to transition across to coaching eventually. I seek to first become the best freediving instructor I can be.
That’s why I’ve trained with a diverse range of world champion level freedivers including Umberto Pelizzari, Stavros Kastrinakis and Ant Williams to compile the best methods of the best. If I continually work towards improving and developing as the best instructor I can be, then through PADI Freediver courses I want to produce the most competent, strong, adaptable, safe and well-rounded freedivers that anyone can be.
What’s your advice to anyone thinking of taking up freediving?
Hasten slowly! Freediving is a bit like martial arts – it’s a discipline with a library of information and skills you need to learn over time to become a master. The first step really should be to take a course with an instructor. Understanding the risks, adopting safe practices, developing knowledge of the body, breathing and relaxation techniques is all part of the foundation material.
Freediving really is a fantastic way to enjoy the marine world, a course may fast-track the feelings of comfort, longer dives and potentially going deeper. PADI Freediver courses enable a wonderful way to develop as slowly or swiftly as anyone prefers. Freediver Touch supports self-paced learning which particularly favours freediving.
Where do I see freediving progressing in the next few years?
In the last 10 years, freediving has become more popular, however breath-holding activities are banned across a wide spectrum of public pools. It reminds me of when snowboarding was a new sport and, initially, many ski resorts banned it. Now snowboarding is one of the most popular and dynamic snow sports around.
If we encourage education, safe practices, the buddy system, professional instructors and schools, freediving will develop as a popular fun, safe and relaxing recreational activity with a huge following.
In the future I’d like to see training and education within reach for all individuals, so they can first and foremost be equipped and safe, as this provides the foundation to enjoy the underwater world in any part of the globe.