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Freediving

by nate on February 12, 2010

Freediving: the art of diving on a single breath.

Sounds very simple and in principle it is, but good freediving requires strong discipline, physiology, and training. After a little research I began to understand what freediving really is and became fascinated. The beauty of the sport is the simplicity and naturalness. With just a mask and fins, trained freedivers can dive to the same depths as advanced scuba divers by their own physical ability. It’s a sport based on mental and physical discipline, very different from the “gauges and gear” of scuba diving.

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I took a short freediving class with renowned freediver Wolfgang Dafert in Moalboal to explore the sport, and discovered a very personal side to diving. The single breath taken is the life source for the entire dive, feeding every movement, every thought, and every second underwater. Because of this simple reality, mental preparation and training become the most important factors. A freediver meditates before the dive, controlling the breathing, and dropping the heart rate. I practiced some of these techniques for what is called static apnea, holding a single breath for as long as possible in a still and relaxed position. A freediver must also really develop technique, as every stroke and fin kick eats away oxygen, and streamlining positively affects the quality of a dive.

Static Apnea

The most psychological part of diving I have ever experienced, static apnea, stems from the  natural mammalian diving reflex we humans have. A well trained freediver understands the natural stages the body goes through with oxygen deprivation, and can mentally overcome the urge to breathe, well within the body’s limit. I was taught how to control contractions (uncontrollable movements of the lungs trying to inhale) and how to stay focused throughout the process. I feel like I learned a great deal, and was able to clock a time of 5 min. 6 sec.  for my static apnea time.

Depth

The depth of a dive is also an important mark for a freediver, as going deeper requires skills, training, and confidence that come over time. Every meter becomes another meter separating the diver and his single breath, from the surface. Every meter also adds more pressure on the lungful of air. Freedivers typically train with a weighted lead line to safely conquer new depths, and my first day I happily met the depths of 16.4 m/54 ft. A huge distance for me, but quite marginal in the freediving world.

Over the course, I really analyzed and progressed my physical and mental aptitude in water. Not only has freediving opened up a new realm of possibility, but the skills I’m gaining can also be applied to enhanced my experience diving with a tank.

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