Despite all the youtube videos, articles online and discussions in groups and threads, I still encounter this question and it’s not a big deal since I know not a lot of people are exposed to this term.
When it comes to diving, most people associate it with SCUBA diving which requires the use of an underwater breathing apparatus.
With Freediving it’s simply put: diving with just a single breath of air.
Snorkeling vs Freediving
There are those who might confuse freediving with snorkeling. We can go crazy over the semantics and other things but it is generally understood that snorkelers are merely limited to the surface. When a snorkeler decides to go deeper than the confines of the surface then one becomes a freediver.
Who is a freediver and who isn’t?
Basically anyone who decides to dive deeper than the surface is a freediver. A freediver is not determined by the depth of their dive or even the duration of their dive. You can have someone with a 20 second dive time diving to 5 meters depth and they are still very much a freediver as opposed to those with 2 minutes dive time with up to 40 meters in depth.
However there is a difference between a certified freediver and an uncertified freediver. There are those who argue that freediving should not be bound by rules and regulations of organisations and it should be as free as the freediver that wills to be one.
Being a certified freediver greatly improves on a certain aspect in your freediving: SAFETY. Safety- not just for yourself but also for your freediving buddy. Certification institutions make sure you cover all the necessary fundamentals through proper guidance so that you do not merely build your own perception of the freediving basics which may lead to bad habits in freediving both in protocols and diving skills.
If you are serious about the sport, then get certified.
How do I start Freediving?
A lot of freedivers just started freediving without even knowing that they were “freediving”. Heck, I had my early beginnings as a freediver thinking I was doing “extreme snorkeling”. I guess it starts with the following:
- Understanding basics
- Basic safety
- Learning more
If you really wanna go raw, you can just literally jump into the water and start going down but everything listed below makes freediving a more pleasant experience:
- Low-volume mask
- Rubber belt
- Long fins
- Suit (optional)
The most basic of all the gears would have to be a mask. A low-volume mask is required to allow easier equalisation because you will require lesser air to fill up the mask when you go deeper.
The snorkel is necessary for your resting state while in the surface. There are some freedivers who prefer to not use a snorkel at all.
The rubber belt needs to be rubber because you need it to stretch and fittingly wrap around your hips with your weights on it. Why rubber? Because when you dive deeper you become compressed and a belt with no elasticity will easily slide off when you’re facing down and when your waistline shrinks. The belt MUST have an easy release system so you can drop your weights when you need to do an emergency ascent or if someone needs to rescue you.
Weights help you descend easily because, especially if you’re fat, your body is quite buoyant. Proper weighting is taught so that you don’t use too much weights that will sink you while you’re on the surface. General practice is to have at least 4lbs weight, 2lbs on each side. Some prefer lighter or heavier than this.
Long fins make HUGE difference when diving. When you’ve been diving with short fins all your life you will feel this amazing force of a fin when using long fins. The grace, ease of use and the power! Oh the propulsion when you use these fins.
Not everyone prefers to wear suit, I personally don’t wear suit because I like the cold but I do wear a rashguard and leggings to prevent any stings from jellies or other stuff in the water.
Please realize that this blog post is not written so that you may learn HOW to freedive here. If you’re a noob and want to learn how to freedive I suggest doing the following: (a) find a freediving community in your area (b) find a freediving school and inquire about an intro course. Suggestion (a) is the best thing. Take for example, Dive ta Bai is the largest freediving community in the Philippines with chapters all over Visayas and Mindanao. The communities help newbies with getting familiar with freediving.
However when you do get to start learning you will learn:
- Freediving Physiology: how our body works and why our body does certain things. Mammalian dive reflex
- Freediving Chemistry: oxygen and carbon dioxide in our body and how these gases work in our body
- Freediving Physics: Law of gases, Buoyancy principles
- Freediving protocols: NEVER dive alone, no touching stuff underwater, do not dive during a typhoon or a hurricane
- Freediving environment: currents, waves, weather, marine life and open sea safety
- Freediving disciplines: Yes there are different kinds of freediving
- CWT: Constant weight with fins
- CNF: Constant weight with no fins
- VWT: Variable weight
- No-limits: as deep as you can with a sled
- FIM: Free immersion
- DYF: Dynamic with fins
- DNF: Dynamic with no fins
- Finswimming: using a monofin to race
If you are insistent about getting into the sea with what little knowledge you have in freediving at least know the basic stuff:
- SWB – Shallow water black-out: Most deaths in freediving occur due to blacking out just before they surface or even after they surface. Without anyone on stand-by to rescue, death can occur.
- Samba – you know, like the dance. An oxygen-starved freediver will seem to “dance” or “samba” which may indicate a freediver is just about to black-out if he/she is not able to do recovery breathing to restore oxygen in the body.
- GOLDEN RULE – never dive alone, and if you have a buddy, make sure that buddy can rescue you. You only live once, live wisely. I know of a freediver who was too confident about his freediving skills. He dived alone. He almost died
- Currents – if you’re not familiar with your waters don’t be a hero. Some really good swimmers can’t even out-swim really strong currents
- Sharks – don’t be stupid, you’re not their food but they can be a threat to you if you panic or if you’ve got your back against them. Stay calm and keep them in your line of vision. RESPECT THEM
- Lone Barracudas or Titan trigger fishes – LEAVE, STAY AWAY. Like seriously, more bites from these than sharks. Had my share of Titan trigger fish. NASTY FISH.
- Weights – don’t put on too much. The dive may be easier but so will your death.
- Mindset – DO NOT PANIC, even if you want to, STAY CALM. This can make all the difference between you staying alive and you becoming part of Poseidon’s human sacrifice.
If you want to learn more I suggest you comment below your location and I can help you find your local community. OR I can refer to you a freediving school so you can get started.
So Why is Freediving So Popular?
It is most probably because more and more videos like the ones of Sama Badjaos diving for fish, or maybe even that freefall of Guillaume Néry in the blue hole might have sparked interest among individuals.
In the Philippines the popularity can be attributed to communities starting to grow and more videos being shared online about their underwater adventure. Funny thing, one could even say GoPro was one of the reasons why Freediving became popular in our place because underwater videos weren’t too hard to take.
This was around the time that GoPro started evolving from their rounded lens cover in their GP Hero 2 housing and moved to a flat glass which was optimised for underwater shooting.
Did I miss anything in this post? Please let me know through the comments below.