Did you know that it’s possible to dive underwater with a single breath? Because it is!
Freediving is one of the most popular underwater diving techniques. While many consider it an extreme sport, many experienced divers believe it to be the absolute opposite. It can be a serene, enjoyable activity that doesn’t require all that much experience.
That said, freediving does not mean you should just jump into the sea without doing any homework. You should know the fundamentals and basic water skills to have a wonderful freediving journey.
That’s why we have compiled this ultimate guide on how to freedive. Read on!
What Is Freediving? An Overview
Freediving refers to a type of underwater diving that doesn’t require any breathing equipment. People also call it skin diving and breath-hold diving.
You do not have to use an air supply tank for freediving. Instead, you have to hold your breath for as long as possible before returning to the surface.
The freediving technique first emerged out of necessity. This was when the earliest humans had to explore the depths of water in search of food.
Over time, the technique evolved to become a skill. Today, an experienced freediver will proudly compete in international contests to showcase his talent. But, freediving really is an amazing experience that all people should try.
It allows you to travel as far as your held breath can take you. And so, it gives you an incredible sense of pushing your limits. You also get to develop your stamina, listen to the sea’s silence, and explore the cold waters.
However, to do all of that, you should have basic freediving training, and you should know how to hold your breath underwater properly. Let’s explore it all in the next section!
The Ultimate Freediving Gear You’ll Need!
It’s true that you won’t need a breathing apparatus like in scuba diving. In fact, you won’t need anything to freedive. You can hold your breath and jump into the cold waters right away.
But, you really shouldn’t do that. That’s because inexperienced people can have a shallow water blackout. This particular condition occurs when the oxygen level in the blood drops too low.
The brain loses complete consciousness in about 2 ½ – minutes. If the victim is underwater, the water enters the body and drowns them. Or, if the victim is above the surface, the body stops breathing and suffocates.
This is the most dangerous thing that can happen to freedivers. Other than this, there’s an obvious danger involving certain marine life as well. Imagine encountering whale sharks on an unsupervised attempt!
So, before you freedive, there are some basic diving tools that you should have at hand. These include:
A mask is an essential tool for all underwater divers and professionals. You’ll even see free-diving swimmers wearing goggles, another type of mask.
These have a transparent plastic body that fits around your eyes perfectly. When worn, they create a physical barrier between your eyes and water, so you can see the surroundings clearly and easily.
Some masks only cover your eyes, whereas some cover the whole face. These are specially-designed, expensive full-face masks used by experts. You can begin your freediving journey with a simple half-mask.
However, make sure it is a good fit. It should also have a low profile or volume so that it sits closer to the face. As a result, there will be little underwater drag.
Contrary to belief, snorkels are not only for snorkeling. It is a water sport that involves staying near the surface and breathing through the snorkel. You can also use snorkels in freediving.
Yes, we know what you’re thinking: aren’t we supposed to hold our breath while freediving? Well, you will be doing that. However, most newbies have limited breath-hold time.
They cannot stay underwater for long periods. This is when a snorkel comes into play. The long tube-like structure allows you to go near the surface and take a breath of air before going down again.
Throughout your training, you will learn to resist the urge to use snorkels and increase the breath-hold time. So, this is an absolute must-have tool. When buying, make sure to pick a snorkel designed for freediving.
These freediving snorkels have a more flexible and curved tube than the standard ones. As a result, you don’t have to bite too hard when taking deep breaths. It also allows you to focus on relaxing and calming down.
Fins are another important part of the gear that enables you to propel and swim underwater. Using them, you won’t have to kick hard into the water to move forward. They also help lower the heart rate and conserve energy.
However, make sure to purchase freediving fins and not the standard ones for snorkeling or scuba gear. The freediving fins are different from others in terms of flexibility.
They tend to be slightly stiff. Although you may have to kick harder, these fins help build powerful muscles. You will be able to use them more efficiently as you practice.
Apart from this, also make sure to choose dual fins as a beginner freediver. These fins are separate and easier to use. The other option is a monofin which locks both your feet together in one fin.
A monofin makes you look like a fish or some mythical creature. However, while it’s difficult to use, the monofin is more efficient and speedy in performance, which is why many experts choose them.
How to Freedive?
Now that you’ve gathered all the necessary freediving equipment. You should jump to the main thing: learning how to freedive.
We know you must have come across hundreds of freediving courses. Each one gets advertised as the key to mastering freediving skills. And, while there’s no harm in taking one, know that it is not mandatory.
Almost anyone can learn to freedive like a pro if they follow these 3-simple steps!
Find Your Breath-Hold Time
Breath-hold time refers to the maximum possible time that you can hold your breath for. Since freediving is all about holding your breath, you should first begin by determining it.
To do so, simply hold your breath and submerge your head in the water. You can do this in a swimming pool. Keep holding your breath for as long as possible before inhaling again. Make sure you use a stopwatch to record this step.
If using a stopwatch yourself is difficult, ask someone to help you out. Repeat the whole thing a few more times. The time appearing again and again is your breath-hold time.
Develop the Right Breathing Pattern
Once you’ve found your breath-hold time, you will use it as a base number to develop the right breathing pattern. By this, we mean a way of breathing that is suitable for freediving at considerable depths. Typically, this involves learning how to take deep and slow breaths.
First, breathe in for 5 seconds. Then, breathe out for 10 to 15 seconds. Make sure that you’re breathing out for a longer period than breathing in.
This will help prevent hyperventilating. Hyperventilation refers to rapid, deep breaths taken as a result of anxiety and panic.
Once you’ve mastered this breathing pattern, record your heart pulse. It should be at least 80 beats per minute or less when you take deep breaths to prepare for freediving. You will notice that this pulse will slow down with freediving practice.
And, once your pulse starts to adapt, you will be able to dive deeper into the cold waters of the sea. As a beginner, you won’t be able to hold your breath for more than 10 to 11 minutes even after countless hours of practice. However, soon, you will begin to improve.
Keep Practicing Under a Freediving Instructor
Although you can learn the previous steps in a pool by yourself, do not attempt to practice in natural bodies of water. Remember, freediving can be a dangerous sport too. It takes mere minutes for a person to experience a blackout.
So, advance your practice by joining an academy, freediving course, or by using a freelance trainer. Make sure the person has the certification and experience level necessary to assist. He will be able to guide you amidst troubles and share valuable freediving insights acquired through experience.
6 Freediving Disciplines to Master
Once you’ve learned freediving basics, do not stop your journey right there. Freediving is full of amazing techniques, also called disciplines, that help perfect the sport.
Even professional freediving instructors make their students learn these before letting them navigate the sport on their own.
Here are the top 6 freediving disciplines to master:
Static Apnea (STA)
Static apnea is a technique used to measure stamina levels. You have to float face down in a swimming pool while holding your breath for as long as possible. Meanwhile, someone will record the time duration.
Dynamic Apnea (DYN)/Dynamic No Fins (DNF)
Although both have apnea in their names, the dynamic apnea is quite different from the static one. This involves covering as much horizontal distance as possible while holding your breath. It is typically done in a swimming pool with fins.
However, there’s another type that doesn’t require fins called Dynamic No Fins Apnea. Nevertheless, this technique also measures your stamina but through distance covered.
Constant Weight Technique (CWT)
The constant weight freediving involves descending while wearing weight-attached fins. It is a small weight that helps pull the diver down. There are no guidance ropes or anything to assist the diver, which makes it challenging.
In CWF, the constant weight technique does not include fins. The diver has to use only his muscle power to propel himself into the water.
Free Immersion (FIM)
The free immersion freediving discipline is much similar to the constant weight. However, it makes things easier by adding a guidance rope to the method. Divers can pull themselves down using the rope.
Using fins is up to the diver. But, without fins, the rope also serves as the means of propulsion in the water.
Variable Weight (VWT)
This particular type of freediving is quite challenging yet fun. In it, the diver gets pulled down quickly to the water depths on a sled. Then, he pulls himself up to the surface using a rope. Sometimes, the diver may have to rely on muscle strength to pull himself up.
No Limits (NLT)
By far, the no-limits technique is the most extreme and dangerous freediving discipline. It includes tying the divers to heavyweights that pull them down to risky depths.
Then, the divers use either a counterbalance pulley or a lift bag to pull themselves up to the surface. Only highly-experienced and specialized freedivers should try this technique.
FAQs About Freediving
How long does it take to learn freediving?
Learning to freedive only takes about two to three days. If you enroll in a professional course, they will complete it even earlier, in about 15 hours. However, many people prefer spending at least a week doing breathing exercises.
Can overweight people freedive?
Overweight people should not attempt freediving or any underwater diving type. That’s because there are countless adverse effects that follow the activity.
These include decompression sickness (DCS), respiratory issues, and even mental issues like anxiety that can be exacerbated in heavier people.
Does running help with freediving?
Typically, freediving only requires breathing exercises to learn the sport. But, you can also train your body through physical exercises like running. This can help strengthen the cardiovascular system and muscle fibers, which are important parts of freediving.
All in all, learning how to freedive is not a difficult task. It takes time and patience to master a few basic breathing skills, but, other than that, there are no major challenges.
You do not need to invest in high-end equipment either. All you’ll need is a mask, snorkel, and fins. With these easily available, anyone can learn to freedive like a pro quickly!