What Is Freediving?
Freedivers do not use tanks; they use only their lungs to descend and explore the underwater world. For many scuba divers, freediving sounds like an activity for super-humans.
While freediving might seem intimidating at first, most people can learn to freedive. Like scuba diving, freediving simply takes time and dedication to master. “How deep/long can a person really dive on a single breath?” “Isn’t it dangerous?” “Those people are crazy!”
Freediving could offer you freedom, a new challenge and increased comfort in the water.
A single breath-hold dive is shorter than a scuba dive, but a freediving session allowed you to be in the water for several hours, and you could cover a lot more ground. The reefs were alive with sounds that you will never hear when diving on scuba. Aquatic creatures are not scared off by the noise of the bubbles and seemed more curious. Plus, the freedom you feel without all the extra gear, relying solely on your lungs for air, is unbeatable. You suddenly feel like you belong underwater with the fish. You are not just a visitor anymore, you are at home.
Freediving isn’t about taking risks; it’s about minimizing risks to make successful dives. Whether you freedive for recreation or competition, the number one safety rule is always to dive under the direct supervision of a buddy. Freedivers tend to pay careful attention to the safety precautions as they generally are very aware of the potential for blackout
Obtaining professional training ahead of time will not only teach you to dive with the proper safety measures in place, it will also improve your technique and minimize your learning curve. Freedive training differs from scuba training because freediving skills require physical adaptation, whereas scuba skills are learned motor skills. In fact, freediving, like mountain climbing, has the unusual distinction of requiring physiological adaptation to an external environment. Divers lower their heart rates, shunt blood to their cores and promote other physiological responses. The more you freedive, the stronger these adaptations become.
When looking for a course to fit your needs, look for one that is comprehensive. You should be learning a lot more than just how to hold your breath and go underwater. Perhaps the most important element is the safety training
Although there is less gear involved in freediving, the gear used is quite specific to divers’ needs. You can make do with the gear you currently use as a scuba diver, minus the tanks, BCD and regulators, of course, but as with many sports there are some gear choices designed to improve performance and make your diving much more comfortable
Long-blade fins are probably the most iconic piece of freediving gear. The fins are about 3 feet long and because they push more water with each kick than shorter scuba fins, they get you moving like no other fin can. you can kick less and go farther, conserving energy.
Low-volume masks are important because they permit divers to keep more precious air in their lungs rather than having to spend it all to equalize the mask. This increased reserve is useful for equalizing the ears and sinuses in addition to prolonging dive time
Even the slightest chill when freediving can cause your oxygen consumption to skyrocket. Proper wetsuits are also important for safety reasons. A freediver should always be positively buoyant in case of a near-blackout or blackout.
Basic safety rules
- Do not push your limits without proper education
- Dive under direct observation of your dive buddy. Tell him/her what you plan to do.
- Do not hyperventilate (no deeper/faster breathing). It can lead to black out without warning. 2-3 slow deep breaths is enough as preparation
- Do not go deeper if you feel pressure on your eardrums. Equalize all the time.
- Accept no discomfort.
- If problems – drop your weights.
- Do not exhale, or stop on the way up (it enhances the risk of Shallow Water Blackout). Swim straight up.
- Your lowest level of oxygen is 20 seconds after surfacing. Keep breathing
- Rest without moving between dives. Rest twice the duration of your last dive.
- Secondary drowning (death) may occur up to 24 hours after small amounts of water has entered your lungs.
- Use a dive line to a secure buoy if you plan to push yourself. Stick to the dive line. NEVER ever swim passed the bottom weight!
- Do not take air from scuba bottles. Do not freedive after scuba diving, rest more than 12 hours.
- Drink lots of water before a freediving session. Do not be hungry, or too full.
- Do not dive deep when you are cold. Don’t dive with fever, infections or drugs in your body.
- Evaluate the dive site. Know about currents and good exit points. Do not touch reef or animals (they or you might get harmed).
- Relax, Enjoy and listen to your body.
Freediving offers a challenge that teaches you what you are capable of doing, and it’s often a lot more than you think. Even if you have never thought about trying freediving before, it’s a sport worth exploring. It’s an activity for all ages and a great complement to scuba diving.
It can be a challenging sport or just a new way to experience the underwater world.
So give it a try.
- How low can you go? Former Royal Marine Mike Board freedives into the record books after plunging an incredible 315 FEET under water (that’s the size of Big Ben) (dailymail.co.uk)
- Can You Dive on Your Period? – Menstruation and Scuba Diving – From Natalie Gibb (gsprom.wordpress.com)