ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Introduction to Freediving

Updated on April 2, 2013

Definition of Freediving

Freediving or Apnea Diving is staying under the water on one single breath. The body and mind can be adapted enormously to increase both the depth and time which a human can stay in the deep blue. As with all sports there are several different ways how to perform freediving. The following disciplines are internationally recognised:

  • Constant Weight
  • No Fins
  • Free Immersion
  • Variable Weight
  • No Limits

Although it seems pretty superhuman to hold your breath for 2 or 3 minutes or even longer, there is no special prior knowledge or physical condition mandatory. Every one is able to freedive. The only difference is to know how to do it.

What makes Freediving special?

The interesting thing about freediving is, that it is a very challenging progress. Not just for your body but also for your mind. Every normal human being considers breathing as the most automated process in the world. In fact, most of the people don't even think about breathing during the day. It happens how it happens, right? Not entirely. Breathing is an action which can be controlled and improved voluntarily. Control your breath and you control your mind and feelings. That sounds pretty spiritual I know. I'll prove that it isn't.

Well trained Freedivers achieve diving depths of more than 100m without technical gadgets like sleds or whatsoever. Breath holds of over 7 minutes are possible for most of them. All they did was training their bodies, lungs and mind to meet the requirements underwater. Every newcomer to freediving is amazed how rapidly the behaviour of the body is changed once he has learned how to hold his breath correctly and listen to the body's reactions.

Because of our origin and evolution the human body has incredible features to adapt to aquatic environment. If your body recognises that your face is submerged with water, it starts triggering the Mammalian Dive Reflex. Because of that we are able to hold our breath longer, dive deeper and become even more relaxed in doing so.

As you get more experienced with your breathing you gain more insights of how to control your mental state with it. Remember what you are doing when you want to calm down? Right, you breathe in a continuous and steady manner. The more you are aware of your breath the more control you have about your mental state.

The difference between SCUBA and Freediving

Well of course the additional equipment like tanks and Buoyancy Jackets are not necessary of course.

How can you go up and down so often? I thought you have to do safety stops?

Fortunately not otherwise we wouldn't be able to do what we do. The only reason why you have to do a safety stop in diving is because you were inhaling compressed air trough a regulator. Think of your lungs as a balloon. If you take the balloon down with you to 10m the pressure of the water has decreased the volume of the air inside about a half. The same happens if you just take on single breath on the surface. As a SCUBA Diver you would have increased the volume again by adding more air into the balloon. Once you go up to the surface, the air will expand until the balloon, well, explodes. That's why you slowly ascend in SCUBA to slowly change the air volume as well as getting rid of nitrogen in your body. But that's a whole other story.

In freediving we don't need all that. We take our final breath, dive down and come back up as we like the whole day long. And the best, it is for free and you don't need to pay tank refills.

You have to be superspecial trained to freedive!

Definitely not. If you don't believe it take a course in Freediving and convince yourself.

I can't even hold my breath for a minute, how should I ever be able to go down to 12m?


First of all, it doesn't matter how deep you are able to dive. But you would be surprised about your personal breath hold results. Most people who are unfamiliar with freediving take a breath and then start holding their breath. That's not entirely wrong but definitely not the best way. The modern freediver learns that he can prepare his body to breath holds by oxygenating his blood first. This is simply done by a series of breathe ups. After that the person takes an entirely full breath, flooding his lungs completely with fresh oxygen and then remains relaxed to hold his breath. That way it is much more comfortable and easier to reach 2 or even 3 minutes easily, even for beginners.


Mammalian Dive Reflex

All mammalians have it, even human beings. Of course, the underwater animals benefit from much more powerful adaptions of their bodies, but we are not far behind. The Mammalian Dive Reflex helps us to survive in the deep blue and supports our actions. It is triggered by either holding your breath or submerge the face with water. The following things are going on in our body:

  1. Bradycardia
  2. Peripheral Vasoconstriction
  3. Blood Shift

Bradycardia

It is extremely powerful and helpful at the same time. When the Mammalian Dive Reflex is triggered, Bradycardia decreases you heart rate tremendously. As your heart is a big muscle it burns oxygen. And because you hold your breath, your body wants to use that oxygen as efficient as possible. Therefore, the heart rate drops, less oxygen is burned and you can dive longer.

Peripheral Vasoconstriction

The blood vessels get constricted and precious oxygenated blood isn't going all the way to your limbs and extremities. The deeper you get the more the blood is centred in your core where your body really needs it. While diving you may feel a tingling sensation in your feet. That's the Vasoconstriction kicking in.

Blood Shift

Until a couple of years ago, scientists believed that the human body isn't able to dive deeper than the residual volume of the lungs could stand the pressure. Then some guys showed up and dove down to 70, 80 and now more than 240m. A point were the lungs must have been compressed to the size of a plum, or even smaller. Well, that was what they believed. But the human body is smarter. Before it gets to the point where the lungs wouldn't be able to handle the water pressure, blood is filling the capillaries of the lungs. As liquids aren't getting compressed like air the lungs stop being compressed and the diver can continue going down. This new environment has to be tested and trained for, of course.

Freediver No Fins

Freediving Equipment

Freediving is all about freedom and not needing equipment. Although that's right the modern freediving has started developing some special pieces of equipment that helps the apneist to dive deeper and being more efficient.

  • Freediving mask and snorkel
  • Wetsuit
  • Freediving Fins
  • Weightbelt
  • Freedive Watch

All these parts are optional but nowadays more or less used by anybody. It is just much more comfortable to see something underwater as well as using powerful fin strokes to descend and ascend.

Curious about Freediving

Did this Hub got you interested in Freediving?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • internpete profile image

      Peter V 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

      Great hub. I've had a lot of experience over the last 10 years or so snorkeling and spearfishing. And this also incorporates a lot from freediving. Sometimes it is fun to have competitions to see who can dive the deepest using just mask and fins. I found that practice was the key to diving deeper and deeper for me, although I never specifically practiced freediving. I eventually got to a point where diving 20-30ft and chasing or waiting for fish was easy, and I could return to the surface without feeling starved for oxygen. Freediving certainly takes both physical and mental discipline! It is a challenging activity. Great information presented here!

    • SeThCipher profile image
      Author

      Sebastian 4 years ago

      It is kind of addictive trying to get deeper and deeper, isn't it? ;-)

      Do you use any kind of breathing technique or do you just take a breath and go down? I am really interested how your sessions look like. Maybe we both can benefit from our two different point of views. What do you think?

      Thanks for your comment. That gives me motivation to continue.

    • SeThCipher profile image
      Author

      Sebastian 4 years ago

      It is kind of addictive trying to get deeper and deeper, isn't it? ;-)

      Do you use any kind of breathing technique or do you just take a breath and go down? I am really interested how your sessions look like. Maybe we both can benefit from our two different point of views. What do you think?

      Thanks for your comment. That gives me motivation to continue.

    • internpete profile image

      Peter V 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

      When I am spearfishing, I usually swim along the surface slowly looking for fish, and trying to calm my breathing and body. Then I pretty much just take in a breath and go for it. Not too much technique, just sorta use what has worked. What kind of techniques do you use for freediving? Are you usually in the water, or in a boat? It is fun to compare the two.

    • SeThCipher profile image
      Author

      Sebastian 4 years ago

      I am doing a 5 weeks internship at the moment where I am basically freediving each and every day. We do use some different techniques for the breathe-up which may be helpful to your activity. I am in the water just like you all the time and after I have finished my preparations I am ready to go down. I got the chance to meet some spearfishing guys and I am really fascinated of what you guys are doing. Combining the knowledge of both applications would be really interesting.

      I am planning to start a hub explaining how to hold your breath for a longer period of time. I think that would be very beneficial. To give me an additional insight in your point of view: How long do you hold your breath and how do you feel just after reaching the surface?

    • internpete profile image

      Peter V 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

      A freediving internship sounds amazing! I would be very interested in learning more about techniques for holding your breath longer. I can't hold my breath very long, probably 1-2 minutes. But I usually reach the surface feeling like I could keep holding my breath for a while longer. When I was first getting into spearfishing and snorkeling, I would always rush back to the surface because I felt like I was out of air, but now it is easier.

    • SeThCipher profile image
      Author

      Sebastian 4 years ago

      Okay I see. Well it would be interesting for you to learn how you can get longer downtime, right? And as you experienced on your own, your body has adapted to the repeating diving you did and helps you. In fact what happens is, that your body is getting more used to the low level of oxygen as well as to the high levels of carbon dioxide.

      What was your biggest catch so far and in what depths have you caught it?

    • internpete profile image

      Peter V 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

      Good to know. I caught a couple of nice parrot fish (some call them rainbow fish) in about 20 ft. Just swam down from above them and got one after the other! Cooked them right on the beach after that too. There have been a variety of other interesting fish, but the two parrot fish tasted the best.

    • SeThCipher profile image
      Author

      Sebastian 4 years ago

      Oh man that sounds awesome. I really have to try it one day. Unfortunately spearfishing is not allowed in Koh Tao, the place where I am at the moment.

      Do you take some videos of your dives, too?

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      My uncle has done some 100+ meter freedives and it honestly kind of freaks me out to think about it! It's crazy that people can hold their breath for 7 minutes. Evidently my dad taught me some of the preparation breathing techniques to get a lot of oxygen prior to going underwater when I was a kid and I didn't ever associate it with freediving!

    • SeThCipher profile image
      Author

      Sebastian 3 years ago

      Natashalh: Seriously? That's amazing. People who have trained theirselves to that level are very impressive to me.

      So how is your freediving eagerness now? Got the spark again? ;-)

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Ehhh...I think it kind of freaks me out! My uncle is a career diving and boating writer/editor, so he's done all sorts of crazy under water stuff. His son, my younger cousin, is the one who first got me thinking about diving a couple of years ago when he was making fun of me for not having my certification. He was 12 or 13 then. I couldn't be judged by a 13 year old!

    • Will Apse profile image

      Will Apse 3 years ago

      I used to swim the length of an olympic pool underwater when I was kid. Hardly freediving but fun.

    • SeThCipher profile image
      Author

      Sebastian 3 years ago

      Natashalh:

      Okay it seems that your cousin was kind of born into it, right? ;-)

      At the end of the day, diving with or without oxygen is just a terrific way to explore the endless underwater world. And that's exiting.

      Will: An Olympic pool? That's 50 meters length Will (i just checked on Wikipedia ;-) ). That's pretty cool. I am not really good at that.

      Technically speaking you were doing dynamic apnea (freediving discipline) ;-)

    Click to Rate This Article