What is Freediving: Your Complete Guide

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Freediving is one of the most beautiful ways to experience diving without managing bulky equipment, keeping your senses open to the underwater world around you. Is freediving difficult? 

What is Freediving? 

Believe it or not, scuba diving was initially known as ‘freediving.’ Before the invention of scuba gear, divers were attached to the surface through an umbilical cord that supplied air; their range of movement was restricted, and they were usually encased in a bulky suit.

When scuba gear was invented, independently without a connection to the surface was called ‘freediving.’ 

Today, freediving is underwater diving without scuba gear; the diver simply holds their breath while swimming underwater. It is used in a wide range of aquatic activities and has been practiced throughout history.  

Freediving

Applications for Freediving 

Long before the invention of scuba gear, ancient cultures used freediving for fishing and underwater exploration. Freedivers collected sponges and corals, explored shipwrecks, and also engaged in naval warfare. In ancient Japan and the Philippines, freedivers collected pearls and shellfish. 

Freediving is also frequently used in competitive sports like synchronized swimming and underwater hockey, and football. In addition, it is a crucial skill in many types of spearfishing. 

Freediving has some important advantages over scuba diving, depending on the conditions. Many underwater photographers prefer freediving, so they have more control over air bubbles in their shots.

Freedivers are also faster and more agile in the water, making it easier to get that coveted shot. In addition, Scuba air bubbles may scare off marine life, who react less to the presence of freedivers, making them easier to see and enjoy.  

Of course, scuba diving enables divers to stay underwater for much more extended periods, allowing them to reach deeper depths and more remote locations.

In fact, most experts recommend that serious underwater enthusiasts train and practice both scuba and freediving, so they can practice either skill in the right conditions.  

Is Freediving Dangerous?  

Broadly speaking, the risks of freediving are similar to the risks of scuba diving. In addition, freediving poses the risk of: 

  • Decompression sickness from ascending too quickly 
  • Shallow water blackout, where your brain is deprived of oxygen, and the diver may lose consciousness 
  • Hypothermia, where cold water temperatures in deep water can reduce body temperature to unsafe levels 
  • Exacerbating underlying health conditions. Freediving strains the heart, lungs, sinuses, muscles, and virtually every system in the body. Freediving poses health risks for people with underlying health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, seizures, or even simple sinus infections.  

Freediving has a much higher accident and fatality rate than scuba diving. However, when reviewing these statistics, it is important to keep in mind that there is no simple correlation of risks. The truth is, to go scuba diving, people have to be trained by an instructor who teaches them how to dive safely and manage their equipment. 

Unfortunately, most freedivers do not go through a formal training process and therefore may not know how to stay safe and take care of themselves.  

For safety in scuba and freediving, it’s crucial never to dive alone. Always make a dive plan, stick to it, choose your dive location carefully, be wary of hazards, and never push yourself too far. However, when people take freediving lessons, get a certification, and follow the appropriate safety precautions, it is not especially dangerous.  

Freediving

How Do You Freedive? 

It’s always important to learn to freedive from a certified instructor. When learning to freedive, the typical lessons start with simply holding your breath underwater in a pool, then building stamina by swimming as far as possible in a pool on a single breath.

Over time, freedivers add weights to pull themselves deeper into the water more quickly, so they can go deeper without breathing. Another method is to suspend a rope in the water that the freediver can use to travel down and then guide their ascent after they dive. 

Freediving lessons are recommended for people who are passionate about scuba diving. It’s a wonderful way to simply and naturally explore the water and teaches scuba divers some valuable buoyancy control and management of underwater emergencies.

Although having both skills is an excellent idea, you should not freedive and scuba dive back-to-back; the difference between diving with and without a pressurized tank in a short period may increase the risk of decompression sickness.  

Conclusion 

Although freediving is an ancient activity that dates back to the earliest people, it is still dangerous when done improperly by inexperienced divers. All too often, online videos and images make it look simple. Freediving is the most beautiful, natural, intimate, and intense way to dive, but it’s essential to learn how to do it safely.   

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