What is Freediving?
The definition of freediving emcompasses all waterbased breath-holding activities. The first widely agreed upon description was: Diving free of all breathing apparatus apart from a snorkel. So freediving includes activities like snorkelling, spearfishing, underwater hockey and rugby and even big wave surfing has an element of freediving, where they depend upon longer breath-holds to get them through hold downs and when they get caught in the breaking zone where they have to dive below a line of breakers.
What gear do you need to start Freediving?
A mask, a snorkel and a pair of fins are the bare essentials for taking up freediving. This is enough to get a great experience diving in the ocean, especially in warm tropical water. Read more about Freediving Gear here.
Should I use a snorkel when freediving?
A snorkel is an important part of all freedivers gear. Recreational freediving requires a snorkel, without it the diver would miss much of the experience as the snorkel allows the diver to have his vision constantly under the surface while breathing easy. A snorkel is used by Safety Divers, who must carefully watch the freediver for signs ofhypoxia. The only times where snorkels are not required are when the diver is competing in actual freediving competitions or training in either pool or ocean. Learn how to choose a Freediving Snorkel here.
Why do I need a freediving wetsuit?
One can do recreational freediving in the ocean and freediving training in a pool without a wetsuit if the water is warm enough. As a freediver spends more time in the water, freediving and/or training his MDR kicks in more often and with more intensity. This means the freediver has a lower heart rate and restricted circulation to the extremities and will be more susceptible to the cold. This is why, even in swimming pools which are usually 24 - 26 degrees, you will often see freedivers training in wetsuits.
The freediving wetsuits also serve another purpose for the competitive freediver. Freediving wetsuits are usually smooth skin style, affecting an easier passage through the water. When the freediver is working on improving distance or depth underwater a smooth skin wetsuit will make a marked difference. Learn more about how to choose a freediving wetsuit here.
Do you need a boat to freedive?
You do not need a boat to freedive. Anywhere the water is deep enough that you have to hold your breath is a potential dive spot. With the majority of main centres in Australia being adjacent or close to the ocean, it isn’t hard to find a dive spot. There are certain safety precautions one must take when diving in the ocean, especially when entry and exit is through an area affected by waves or currents. Australia has dive spots in lakes as well as the ocean, where deeper spots are accessible from the shore.
Can I freedive alone?
There is an unwritten law amongst all freedivers, NEVER FREEDIVE ALONE. This applies to all freediving activities, especially those in the ocean. Unwritten, as it doesn’t exist as a law, but divers ignore it at their own peril. If there was one safety action that is such a basic that it will handle nearly all other lapses of safety, this is it. But it is not enough that one enters the water with a dive buddy, the responsible freediver must watch his buddy as he dives and recovers, and must expect the same care.
Can I freedive without doing a freediving course?
There is no distinct line where someone stops snorkelling and starts freediving because it is all freediving per the most basic definition:
Freediving,free-diving,free diving, breath-hold diving, or skin diving is a form of underwater diving that relies on divers' ability to hold their breath until resurfacing rather than on the use of a breathing apparatus such as scuba gear.Wikipedia
Therefore when you take a mask and snorkel, or even just a mask, enter the water to dive on a breathhold, you are freediving in the most basic form. There is no restrictions on people doing this. There is no law requiring freedivers to do a freediving course before they freedive, nor any agreed upon moment for a person taking up freediving that they should do a course. Many spearfishers have freedived for years while hunting and will continue without doing such a course. However, doing a freediving course early is a wise choice. The courses are designed to give you knowledge and drilling on the safe and good habits from the beginning. Doing a freediving course means you don’t have to do trial and error to find the things that work and discard those that don’t or are unsafe. For example, some people struggle to equalise their ears at depth at times for years, risking perforating their ear drums. A good instructor can alleviate this with knowledge and drilling in a freediving course.
It is wise to do a freediving course. It will make your diving safer and more fun. It will also give you access to freediving clubs, and boat charters that require certification.Learn more aboutFreediving Training and Courses.
Where can I freedive in Australia?
Australia has some superb freediving locations, some of the best in the world. Of course The Great Barrier Reef is the most world renown. Australia is the continent island, completely surrounded by ocean and this give a huge array of different dive locations. From the southern sections in a temperate climate Australia extends North through subtropical, with its northern tip deep in the tropics, close to the equator. This along with a few lakes gives Australia a huge variety of terrain and underwater life, perfect for recreational divers, sightseers, underwater photographers and spearfishers.
However, for the competition freediver or those training in the freediving disciplines, Australia’s shallow continental shelf means a freediver must travel quite a distance to get deep water. Added to this, Australia’s strong currents and variable wind create undependable conditions that make it hard to predict the future. For this reason freediving depth competitions are not common. Even the Freediving Depth Nationals for Australia are held overseas, usually in Bali.
What about the sharks?
Australia has a wealth of shark species. Some are protected from all fishing, others have restrictions of length and bag limits so we can look forward to a future of healthy shark populations. Diving in Australian waters, especially in the tropics, freedivers from time to time will encounter sharks. Every freediver should work out their own safety and comfort level as most society guidelines are based on fear and lack of knowledge. Sharks are unpredictable and therefore what works as a safe activity one day could be dangerous on another. It takes a lot of experience to make reliable predictions of shark behavior around divers. The vast majority of sharks are not aggressive and even of the sharks known to be aggressive to humans, they seldom interact. More people are struck by lightning than attacked by sharks, however we have such thorough news services that even minor attacks are often portrayed as life threatening events.
However, Australia does have a healthy population of the aggressive species of sharks, Great White Sharks, Tiger Sharks, Bull Sharks, and large whalers and it makes sense to have a plan for encounters. There is an element of truth in the saying that it is not the shark you see that will cause you harm and this is a big argument for always diving with a buddy. Part of a dive buddy’s duty is to warn and where possible protect his diver from an attack.
Probably the most well known and successful safety action is to face down the shark. To flee will encourage an attack, as it does even with an angry dog. To look at the shark and face it without backing off has a history of preventing an attack from an aggressive shark..
Are there freediving clubs in Australia?
There are 4 fully set up freediving clubs in Australia, Brisbane Freedivers, Sydney Freedivers, Melbourne Freedivers and South Australia Freedivers. There are forming clubs in the Gold Coast and Perth. They are all volunteer run non-profit sporting clubs, affiliated with AIDA through the national body Australian Freediving Association (AFA).
What is the Australian Freediving Association?
The Australian Freediving Association is a non-profit organisation with the purpose to manage and expand the sport of freediving in Australian, including maintaining high levels of safety in training, recreation and competition diving. The AFA is the organisation in Australia that arranges and coordinates freediving competitions. ratifies national records, maintains Australian competition rankings and is responsible for national team selection. They are the official representative for the international governing body of the sport, theAssociation Internationale pour le Développement de l’Apnée (AIDA).The AFA also assists divers by providing third party liability insurance for clubs, groups and members undertaking freediving activities.
Isn’t freediving and extreme sport and dangerous?
Most sports have agreed upon safety rules to ensure safe participation. For example the many rules in football that have been introduced over the years to combat injuries and deaths, like the banning of spear tackles and head high tackles. It is the same in freediving where rules and guidelines have been introduced to keep the divers safe. In the 50 plus years of freediving history there has only been one death of a freediver during a competition. The are very few sports with such a conservative record. Mountaineering, for example, is a similar sport where the natural terrain is conquered. Despite the few who attempt various mountains around the world, there is a high incidence of fatalities. The point here is that despite news reports calling freediving an extreme and dangerous sport, it has a very safe record.
Incidence of fatalities are higher in the recreational freediving activities, especially spearfishing. The majorities of these can be traced to violating the age old maxim of never diving alone.
Do many women practice freediving?
Freediving has more and more become a popular sport and activity for women. The fitness and health benefits has helped boost this popularity. Many women are training and competing in this sport worldwide. Recent enrollments in Clubs and training groups bring the percentage of women freedivers close to 50%.
What is the Mammalian Dive Reflex?
The human body has a tremendous ability to adapt to different situations and requirements. In freediving the body must become used to low levels of oxygen and high levels of carbon dioxide. It takes time for the body to develop this ability. Like aquatic mammals, freedivers develop what is called the mammalian dive reflex. It takes diving and holding one’s breath many times over time to get this developed. The mammalian dive reflex consists of:
- A lowering of the heart rate.
- Vascular constriction. The blood vessels in the extremities constrict forcing more blood to the core, and associated organs, heart and brain etc. This is also known as the blood shift.
- A boost of haemoglobin supplied to the blood from the spleen. Haemoglobin is the protein that carries the oxygen in the blood.
As a diver trains in freediving his MDR becomes stronger and stronger. It can also be trained to kick in sooner giving the diver increased oxygen efficiency for a longer period in every dive.
How important is the freediver’s technique when it comes to breath holding?
A new freediver can get the greatest change in distance or depth by working on technique. It takes time to make changes in one’s breath-holding ability as the body slowly adjusts, but with a little coaching a freediver can make almost instant changes to the distance or depth. Attention on streamlining and correct finning technique can be reap great results.Look intoFreediving Training and Courses to learn tactics to increase your breath-hold.
How can I hold my breath longer?
Freediving instructors and leading freedivers are often asked,how can I hold my breath longer? Perhaps novice divers think there is a secret or system that can immediately increase one’s breath-holding ability. Like every other sport one masters it by training. The more an athlete practices his sport, the better he or she will become. Look into Freediving Training and Courses to learn tactics to increase your breath-hold.
How do I breathe up for freediving?
Despite the loud decrying of hyperventilation, thebreathe-up is still a largely misunderstood action and we still have people hyperventilating before leaving the surface, which is very dangerous. Learn more about how to safely breath here.
What is a Freediving Blackout/Shallow Water Blackout?
A blackout while freediving is simply a loss of consciousness from low oxygen. It can happen in shallow water, deep water, swimming pools and even the bath. It is a blackout from holding the breath longer than the freediver has oxygen to maintain consciousness. Read more about Blackouts on our Freediving Safety page.
If my dive buddy blacks out, what should I do?
The best thing to do is to become trained before you ever have to handle an unconscious diver.Read about what to do on ourFreediving Safety page.
What is a Samba?
In freediving circles one often hears about aSamba. This is a colloquial term for Loss of Motor Control (LMC) due to low oxygen. In this situation the freediver has held his breath too long and the oxygen level has dropped to the level where the cells in his body have trouble communicating to each other, and certainly to a greater or lesser degree go out of the person’s control. A minor samba can be as little as a muscle twitch and the person, still conscious, has no trouble keeping his airways out of the water. However, a big samba can have the freediver jerking or swaying, so out of control that the airways can not be kept out of the water. In this case the LMC will probably lead into a blackout and, unassisted, the diver will drown. It has been noticed that some divers will samba, while others will bypass this intermediate level of low oxygen, and simply blackout.Read more about safe practices on our Freediving Safety page.
What is streamlining? Is it important?
Streamlining is all about reducing drag in the water. Water is about 800 times more dense than air making streamlining of paramount importance. Ships are streamlined so they pass through the water with less drag, this means that they move faster and use less fuel. Anything a freediver can do to reduce this drag will pay him with distance and depth, whether it is in freediving competitions or even recreational freediving.This is what streamlining is about.
To focus on streamlining the freediver must first look at his body posture in the water. There is a great analogy between swimming and freediving, however swimming is even more performance based with the level of competitions around the world, and the amount of money and time spent in research and development to get the ultimate performance from the swimmers. It is worth watch children being taught swimming for the first time. Right at that beginning level they are being taught to streamline. Under good instruction they don’t get a chance to develop bad streamlining.
Try to imagine fitting through the smallest hole in the water. At the top levels, the freedivers have their arms straight above their heads joined at the hands creating a jet aircraft shape. Their heads are not up looking about, but are in alignment with the body with the chin drawn back. The body is stretched out and even the stroke is trained so that it doesn’t move too far out from the body profile. It takes considerable stretching and drilling to achieve a competition level streamlined position, however the time and effort devoted to this pays big dividends. Every metre achieved through streamlining is done so using very little oxygen.
There are also great gains in recreational freediving through attention to streamlining. A recreational freediver will often dive many times in a day and even though they may carry a camera or a speargun, attention on good streamlining will give them more depth or distance for less oxygen. Getting the body in alignment, pulling the speargun or camera close to the body or stretching it out ahead will give a much easier dive and longer breath-hold. At the end of the day the diver will have a lot more energy and would have achieved more on each dive.
What is Freefalling and how is it done?
There is a point during a depth dive that the diver moves through neutral buoyancy and becomes negatively buoyant. At this point the freediver begins to sink without the need of further finning. This is also called thesink phase. This can happen at any point of a dive and depends entirely on the diver’s buoyancy as dictated by things such as the amount of extra weight carried (dive weights), the thickness of the neoprene suit, the density of the divers muscle and bone structure and of course the amount of air the diver has in his lungs at the time of the dive.
A diver could freefall off the surface by blowing all his air out before submerging. A diver could also carry insufficient weight and have to kick too hard and long to get to the targeted depth. This would be an example of an insufficient freefall. A freediver should work out at what point of the dive the freefall should begin and carry the correct weights to affect this. This takes experience. With too little weight the diver has to kick hard in the early section of the dive burning up valuable oxygen before the MDR has kicked in. With too much weight the diver will begin his freefall early but his ascent will be very tough and could burn too much oxygen. A correctly ballasted diver will not need to kick too hard off the surface and will not be too heavy and struggle with the ascent.
The freefall is known for the state of mind that it brings about in the freediver, similar or the same as the peace and relaxation attained in meditation. It is a time where the freediver is conserving as much oxygen as possible to finish the dive. His heart rate drops, his mind becomes free of distractions and even thoughts, through to the moment where he needs to grab the tag off the bottom plate.
What is "being narc-ed"?
Narc-ed is the shortened term for Nitrogen Narcosis. This effect is most prevalent amongst scuba divers when they breathe compressed gases at depth. Nitrogen and other gases breathed at depth have a narcotic effect on the diver. The effect can be euphoric but it can also be a very negative effect. In the scuba world any nitrogen narcosis is considered dangerous. Whether it is a good feeling or bad, the effect impairs the diver’s judgement, for example making light of dangerous situations or overreacting on non-threatening situations and making dangerous decisions.
Fortunately being narc-ed is not so common amongst freedivers, however as a diver gets deeper so increases the likelihood of nitrogen narcosis. The effects vary from diver to diver, and from day to day. They can be as startling as hallucinations, or as mild as small changes in one’s emotions. It is important for a freediver to factor this into his training so he is not caught unprepared. This condition occurs at competitions and deep training as it does usually take considerable depth to bring it about. It is fortunate that safety requirements for these activities are such that the risks are managed.
What is a lung squeeze?
A lung squeeze is the rupture of lung tissue during a dive. It occurs when the pressure of the surrounding water compresses the lungs putting the tissue under stress. When the pressure becomes too much the tissue is damaged and bleeding occurs.Learn how to avoid lung squeezes here.
What isPackingfor freediving, and is it a good idea?
Lung Packing is a system of manually forcing more air into the lungs after a full inhalation, through the use of the mouth, throat and tongue. When it is done it appears the diver is gulping air. It is a very controversial technique for advanced competitive diver, and you can read more about Packing here.