Freediving, breath hold diving, skin diving or spearing is a form of underwater diving that relies on the individual’s ability to hold their breath until resurfacing rather than relying on the use of a breathing apparatus such as scuba gear.
Freediving is a fantastic sport for everyone and you don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy it. Freediving is more about relaxation, mind set and technique, than it is strength. Your goal is to connect with the water and enjoy all the feelings and sensations. Underwater on one breath is a great place to be, so remember to always appreciate every minute of it and enjoy your diving.
When it comes to exploring a new challenge like freediving, it’s wise to know a few tips and tricks to help get you started whilst developing safe habits from the get go. For those ready to experience what this great sport is all about and enjoy the peace of the underwater world on a single breath here are some great tips for beginner freedivers and spearos.
Never Dive Alone
This is the number one and most important rule in freediving, or any time you’re in the water for that matter. The buddy system is very important and should never be disregarded. It’s essential to watch out for each other, learn to safety each other in every dive shallow or deep, and of course everything is always more fun to share with someone or a group of people. You will learn the reasons for never diving alone in the PADI Freediver course.
Always Use a Dive Flag
By using a dive flag you are letting the surrounding boating traffic know that there are Freedivers in the water and that diving operations are in progress. By Australian law, the skipper of a vessel must avoid an area displaying a Dive Flag by 200 metres. If the vessel must travel through the diving area, then the vessel’s speed must be no greater than 5 knots within 200 metres of the dive flag. This is required to avoid collisions between divers and vessels and allows the vessel significantly more time to safely maneuver to avoid the divers.
A dive flag is an absolute MUST have item for every Freediver and they are also required by law in many states and territories of Australia. In Australia, we use an Alpha Flag as our designated Dive Flag. This is a White flag with a Blue swallow tail as seen below.
When selecting your Dive Flag there are plenty of options available on the market these days. Essentially freedivers who are diving from a boat will use a separate Dive Flag that can be mounted prominently from the boats UHF aerial or pole. Whilst divers entering the water from the shore line will opt for a Dive Float and Flag that can be easily towed in the water behind the diver. This way the dive flag always follows the diver around in the water.
Take the PADI Freediver course
Knowledge is power and even the worlds best Freedivers never stop learning about their sport, their bodies and the processes that occur when freediving. On the PADI Freediver course you will learn what your body has the capability of and of course the safety aspects of the sport, which is indispensable. Taking a freediving course will introduce you to the basic elements of the sport in a step by step manner, under the direct supervision of an experienced Instructor which will build your confidence and experience in freediving.
Remember to always enjoy the beauty of what surrounds us in the water. It’s like nothing else in this world. You have the ability to stay underwater on one breath of air, so enjoy the silence, peacefulness, and beauty of it all. Joining a school of fish, diving with a pod of dolphins, or simply taking underwater photos, every freediver will live in the moment and feel truly free.
Learn about your environment and protect it
Our oceans and shorelines are struggling and they need our help. A good place to start is at your local dive spots. Get involved in a local beach and ocean cleanup. Cleanup Australia have been involved for years in cleaning up Australia’s shorelines and coastlines to help create a better future for the health of our Oceans and our precious marine life. There is also PADI’s Project Aware which has done some amazing things for our oceans worldwide. So take part and get involved in helping to create a healthier tomorrow for everyone to enjoy. Start with yourself, be an advocate for the ocean, and if you see others disrespecting it, educate them. We only get one chance with our oceans and we really need to pay attention and help them any way we can.
Relax, Relax, Relax
Relaxation is the key to freediving. Deep, slow, calm breaths help lower your heart rate so that your body will conserve oxygen. Every tense muscle uses heaps of oxygen and energy. Freediving will teach you how to learn to relax your body through different breathing and relaxation techniques in freediving courses and clinics. Some exercises are borrowed from yoga practices, so you may already recognise some of them.
A good way to prepare for your dives is with the use of visualisation. Visualise happy things and peaceful surroundings and your mind will automatically relax your body and lower your heart rate. Visualisation can be used pre dive as well as during your dive. Next time you plan on heading out try to visualise step by step how you want the dive to go before you even get in the water. When your Freediving, if you find yourself getting tense, try saying a little mantra or sing a song in your head, and watch how it helps you to relax again. Of course different things will work for different people, but some type of visualisation will certainly help before and during your dives.
You don’t need to have the best freediving gear to be able to enjoy your underwater playground. Beginner freedivers will most likely have scuba fins or short fins and that will work fine as a beginner diver. However there are a few items that will certainly help to make your dives a lot more comfortable from the start. A low volume mask would be a great first purchase. Scuba masks are much bigger and are more difficult to equalise when you are freediving. With a low volume mask, it will be much easier to equalise as you go deeper and they are also much more flexible and comfortable. As you fall in love with the sport, you will begin to invest in other freediving gear such as a two piece wetsuit, long blade fins, a rubber weight belt and a dive computer. For now, just use what you have to begin your freediving journey.
Learn from everyone you can
Watch other divers and ask questions. Join a local Freediving Club or dive school and soak up everything you can from certified Instructors as well as other certified freedivers. As you freedive more, you will find that freedivers use different techniques to reach their goals. Start with the basics in a course, master these, and then build on your own knowledge and find what works best for you.
(Disclaimer: Do not fall for the trap and become an “internet” freediver. There is a lot of wrong information out there that could be potentially harmful to you, so please make sure that you get your information from credible sources and certified agencies.)