Nicholas Kouvaras is one of the most experienced freediving instructors in the world. He has been teaching freediving for almost a quarter of a century and is also a highly accomplished underwater photographer and videographer. Nicholas is a very modest guy and in this interview didn’t even bother to mention that he has the most viewed freediving video on YouTube: Never be Nery freediving in Vouliagmeni. Let’s get to know him!
Could you please introduce yourself to our readers? (The same way you introduce yourself to new students)
Hello, My name is Nicholas Kouvaras, I come from Greece and I have been teaching freediving for the last 24 years.
When, where and why did you start freediving? What inspired you to get started?
I grew up on an island in Greece and when I was 9 I got my first underwater camera. Taking pictures of the sea life was what got me holding my breath.
What is your favourite freediving location and why?
I have a thing for caves and swim throughs. Shipwrecks and cave systems make me feel like a 12 year old. The “Cathedral” in Menorca and the Liberty in Tulamben in Bali are my favourite playgrounds.
What has been your most memorable dive so far?
I was lucky to be the first person to freedive/dive in a “cenote” in Tomia island. The thrill of being the first person to explore a cave was amazing. I will never forget the look of the people waiting for me on the edge of the cave. Waiting for me to tell them it is safe to come in.
What is your favourite marine animal and have you freedived with one yet?
Whale sharks. I was fortunate to have multiple encounters with these magical creatures.
Why did you become a freediving instructor?
When Umberto Pelizzari asks you to join the first ever freediving Instructor course in the world you can not say no.
You have trained a number of freediving instructors yourself, in your opinion which qualities, personalities or traits make for a good freediving instructor?
Empathy would be at the top of my list. Reading students and adapting your approach accordingly is very important. Energy is also big. Especially for people who work in busy freediving centres and have to teach everyday. Keeping the energy levels high can make a huge difference for the students as well for the rest of the team. One more trait that has value long term, is never to settle. I like instructors who keep developing themselves as divers and as instructors. That shows true passion.
Which skills or knowledge do you generally find the hardest for your instructor candidates to master?
Presentations for some people are difficult. It is teachable and trainable but some people are having a real hard time talking in front of other people.
What advice would you give a freshly qualified freediving instructor that they probably won’t hear from anyone else?
My most unconventional advice is: “Your students don’t see freediving the way you do. They just want an experience and to have fun. You are an entertainer not a trainer. Make people laugh, give them an unforgettable experience and take lots of pictures.”
Where do you teach your courses?
I have taught in Greece, in Bali, in the Philippines, in Menorca and now I am settled in Jakarta.
How would you describe your local freediving community?
What gives you the greatest sense of achievement or satisfaction when teaching freediving?
The wow factor. The sense of achievement you give to your students.
If you had to convince a friend to try freediving, what would you tell them?
You don’t really need to convince anyone. If they ask about it, they are already sold.
Other than teaching freediving, do you have any freediving related projects, trips or activities you would like to share with us?
Freediving trips is the new trend here. Indonesia has 17000 islands. Big marine life, Caves, Shipwrecks, lakes, liveaboards. The schools here regularly organise trips for fun/adventure diving.
Thank you Nicholas!