I recently took a course in freediving. The reasons for doing it were two fold. Firstly I have always wanted to be able to do it. There is something cool about being able to dive down to the bottom of the sea, spend a few moments before safely popping back up to the surface. There is also the need for a minimal amount of equipment. Fins, wetsuit, weights, mask and snorkel. No need for a large tank, BCD and regulators. Secondly I have heard that there are many benefits to scuba diving if you are able to freedive. Not just extended ait usage but also more composure in stressful situations and the knowledge that you could safely CESA from any depth.
The equipment for freediving differs slightly for scuba diving. In fact to do it properly you need to have specialist equipment.
The mask should be of very low-volume and should have a black skirt.
The snorkel should be simple and not have any special valves or adaptations.
Fins should be longer than normal scuba fins and have be full-foot. They also come in different types but I have been recommended fibreglass ones as they are more durable.
The weight belt should be made of rubber so that you can wear it lower on your body without fear of it slipping.
The wetsuit is made of slightly different neoprene that is more stretchy and it is usually worn as a two piece.
The first day consisted of a classroom session and then confined sessions in the canal. The classroom sessions went pretty quickly as being scuba instructors a lot of the theory was known to us already. Then we jumped into the canal and put to practice what we had just been taught.
Skills – in confined water
One of the most important parts of freediving is safety. In fact the buddy system is paramount for a safe freedive. It is possible to have a blackout or even loss of motor control (which is worse). We practised in the confined area how to rescue someone if they had a blackout at depth or at the surface, and if the lost motor control at depth or at the surface. Most people with recover from hypoxia very quickly, the key is to be patient and gentle.
We also learnt how to start our entry into water. This involved calmly breathing up at the surface, a pre-equalisation, removing the snorkel, a pause, tucking one leg in, duck diving, a breast stroke, and then entering the correct position with one hand on the nose (for equalising) and one hand above the head (for streamlining).
Another skill that the freediver must master is static apnea. This is basically holding your breath. You start by breathing up for more than your intended breath hold target. So if you wanted to hold your breath for 3 minutes, you would do a breathe up for at least 3 minutes or even longer. We did a 5 minute breathe up for a 3 minute breath hold. I was surprised at how easily I was able to hold my breath for 3 minutes. I only started to feel the urge to breath after 2 mins 30.
Putting them to practice
The second day of the FII Level 1 training is in open water. We jumped aboard Richard’s catamaran and he took his from Coral Harbour to the Twin Sisters. I have previously dived this site before and it is one of my favourites, so I was quite excited to be going there. Once we had anchored, we kitted up and jumped in. Richard had a special buoy with a 20m descent line on it. We started breathing up. We then did some warm up exercises. Diving sequentially from 5m, to 10m, to 15m all the way to 20m. These were done as Free Immersion dives, this is when you use the descent line to pull yourself up and down to depth. It is actually quite relaxing. We then practised descending with only using the line for reference, this is called Constant Weight. This is much harder than Free Immersion and getting your entry correct makes it so much easier. After we had dived for a bit we then practised the safety skills at the surface, before I then did my deepest dive of the day to 23m.
I really enjoyed this course and it has made me more confident in my diving abilities. I am looking forward to practising my static apnea and Free Immersion techniques. Hopefully it will have a positive impact on my scuba diving skills. I also feel that I can talk more intelligently about freediving know that I have learnt more about it.