One of diving’s oldest forms is freediving – essentially holding your breath underwater and swimming as far as possible without coming up for air. Freediving began centuries ago when people needed to get food from below the waves or retrieve items lost overboard. These days, though, freediving is a sport and popular pastime.
Diving Without Equipment
Freediving is, to all intents and purposes, diving with no equipment. Anyone who has ever swum underwater while holding their breath has some idea of what freediving is like. However, it requires more training to learn how to do it properly.
To learn to free dive, you should begin by holding your breath underwater for as long as possible. That number is the base figure you’ll be working from. Essentially, breath-hold diving is the start of learning how to free dive. You can extend the length of time you can breathe underwater by learning how to take deep, slow breaths.
Work on breathing in for five, then out again for between 10 and 15 seconds. Focus on breathing out for longer than you breathe in. When you’re practicing, it’s best to ensure your pulse is 80 bpm or under. When you spend enough time practicing, you’ll discover your pulse begins slowing down over time, enabling you to dive deeper.
What Kind Of Equipment Is Needed For Freediving?
It’s possible to free dive with no specialist equipment at all. However, that doesn’t mean that that is an ideal situation. In certain conditions, you’ll need other items of equipment. For example, a wetsuit may be a good idea as the water temperature can drop considerably when you reach lower depths.
Also, if you’re diving to a deep level, you should wear a mask that will allow you to map your route to the surface safely. Another piece of equipment you should definitely consider is wearing a dive watch. These watches tell you how deep you are beneath the water and how long you’ve spent below the waves. They can help you stay safe when freediving. The Garmin Descent G1 is especially recommended for freedivers and is suitable for both experienced and novice divers.
Read more about freediving equipment here.
Are There Different Styles Of Freediving?
There are several different kinds of freediving, and it’s essential to know about the other options to find one that suits you:
- Constant Weight Freediving – you can do this without or with fins. This discipline is a “pure” type of freediving since divers descend under their own body weight.
- Free immersion – this is a well-known form of freediving that involves divers pulling themselves down under the water using a rope and then using it to pull themselves up again. It stops divers from using too much oxygen too rapidly since there’s no need to use your legs to move forward. It’s a particularly good way to teach students equalization skills gradually.
- Variable weight – this style involves the addition of extra weight to divers to enable them to go deeper and then come back to the surface themselves. Although it isn’t a competitive sport, some divers have set the world record in it.
- No limits – this is a dangerous form of freediving that involves using weights to get as deep under the water as possible and then utilizing a buoyancy device to get back to the surface again.
- Static apnea – this form doesn’t actually involve diving. Instead, it consists of holding your breath while lying still on the water’s surface for as long as possible. Typically practiced in swimming pools, it’s a tough discipline to master, but it helps to train divers in breath control and mental toughness and increases their confidence.
- Dynamic apnea – this is a form of freediving that can be done with or without fins, typically in a swimming pool. It’s a good way for novice divers to learn how to equalize since it allows divers to enjoy the benefits of freediving without experiencing depth issues.
A Guide To Freediving Deeper
The key to freediving more deeply is to learn how to hold your breath more effectively. The first step is to learn abdominal breathing. This improves breathing efficiency, giving the body more oxygen while doing less work and releasing a larger amount of carbon dioxide during the exhale to increase your starting carbon dioxide threshold.
Some divers train by using ARDs or air restriction devices. These limit how much air you can exhale and inhale. Giving you extra resistance to boost your lung capacity, strengthen the lungs, and increase your breath-holding capability and CO2 threshold. Pranayama Yoga is also known to condition the body and mind to breathe more deeply and improve regulation.
Increasing CO2 thresholds is vital for freedivers and several exercises can be done to achieve this goal. However, all should be done with an instructor or partner in case of a blackout. Training your body to do this involves using a good quality dive computer to time how long you’re holding your breath. Doing wet and dry apnea walks as well as wet and dry static apnea exercises is an excellent way to work on this.
Freedivers can benefit from relaxation techniques that reduce their heart rate to under 45 bpm, such as deep meditation. This also enables deeper dives.
Before you go freediving, some pre-dive breathing exercises will help with diving more deeply. Exhaling for twice the length of the inhale for two minutes before the descent can help you reach a greater depth.
The Dangers Of Freediving
Of course, freediving has its risks. Blackouts due to lack of oxygen are the most significant. However, dehydration, nitrogen narcosis, cramps, and hypothermia are also dangers to consider. There are also underwater hazards to bear in mind, such as underwater debris, fishing lines, sea creatures, and cables. Fortunately, if you take sensible precautions and spend time practicing and training beforehand, you should find freediving a fun and enjoyable activity.
Read more articles from our diving section here.
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