Imagine gliding through coral canyons in formation with a school of manta rays, or coming nose to nose with a dolphin. Freediving lets you experience the underwater world up close, on just one breath, and in turn you become a part of the marine world – almost naturally.
To help you on your journey into the world of freediving, we give you 13 things that you should know before taking the plunge:
Freediving, as the name suggests, is diving with almost total freedom: No heavy, expensive gear, no maximum ascent rates, closer interactions with marine life, and totally new challenges.
There are seven different freediving disciplines; some are about maximising the distance swum underwater, or the depth reached; others are about extending the dive time.
Never dive alone! Don’t push your limits without proper education. It’s important to have a buddy on the surface that can monitor you in the water and respond if you have any problems.
There are always risks involved in dropping deep into the ocean. Blackouts can occur and can be fatal. Careful preparation is important.
There are some beautiful places to freedive in Asia Pacific: Richelieu Rock, Thailand; Elephant Head Rock, Similan Islands; SS Yongala Wreck, Australia; Crystal Bay, Bali.
It’s vital to rest between dives. You need to rest for twice the duration of your last dive. Without the proper recovery time to re-oxygenate the blood and rest muscles, the risk factor for your next plunge increases significantly.
Safety first! Just like scuba, it is important to know the currents of a dive site, and scout out the good exit points.
This is not advised! It can lead to a blackout, which is very dangerous.
Freediving requires incredible mental concentration. Meditation trains the mind and helps to slow and regulate the breathing and heart rate – vital for good freediving. The heart rates of freedivers on deep dives have been recorded as low as seven beats per minute – about three times slower than that of a coma patient.
Twenty seconds after surfacing, your body’s oxygen level is at its lowest. Keep breathing slowly and deeply through your intervals.
The diving reflex
The second you put your face in the water, your heart rate lowers up to 25 percent, and blood starts rushing from your extremities into the core.
Freedivers use three fin strokes: the flutter, frog and dolphin.
The worldwide federation for breath-hold diving, the International Association for Development of Apnea (AIDA), offers freediving training for divers of every level, from novice to professional. The initial three courses introduce participants to the skills, knowledge, and protocols necessary to freedive safely.
This article featured in Scuba Diver Australasia (7/2015)