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Q&A

Q: What are the benefits of freediving?

A: There are several benefits to freediving, here are a few to consider:

  • Intimate contact with marine life – One of the main reasons why freediving is so popular is in the freediver’s ability to get close to marine life. With no bubbles and slow, graceful movements, the freediver resembles an aquatic mammal. Fish respond to freedivers much better than scuba divers, thus allowing the freediver a closer and more intimate experience with marine life.
  • Serenity – Many put freediving akin to yoga as pre-dive techniques place freedivers in a meditative state. Gracefully slipping underwater, freedivers hear only their heart beat. Freedivers glide effortlessly underwater, unencumbered by bulky scuba equipment. The brief time spent underwater on a freedive is a rich and intensely beautiful experience.
  • Cost – Freediving is a very cost-effective way to explore the underwater world. All that is generally needed are a mask, snorkel, fins, wetsuit, and weight belt. The specialized freediving version of each of these items (i.e. longblade fins, low volume masks, depth-compensating weight belts) tends to cost slightly more than their scuba counterparts. However, there is no need for scuba tanks, buoyancy compensators or regulators – which can add up to several hundreds of dollars.

Q: What’s the difference between snorkeling, skin diving and freediving?

A: Although similar, there are some differences that make each of these activities separate. Snorkeling is the act of floating on the surface while utilizing a mask to see underwater, a snorkel to breathe while keeping one’s face submerged, and a pair of fins to move about the surface. Skin Diving adds submerging and swimming underwater to the activity of snorkeling. This may or may not include a weight belt and a wet suit. Freediving greatly alters the act of skin diving by using advanced breathing techniques, efficient movements underwater, and specialized equipment – all designed to conserve oxygen – thus increasing depth and/or time underwater.

Q: But you can stay down longer with a scuba tank, why not just scuba dive?

A: Fish and marine life are very attuned to their surroundings. Disturbances such as the whining of regulators and columns of rapidly ascending bubbles often startle fish away. The vast majority of freedivers claim to be able to approach and interact with fish much more intimately than when using scuba equipment. The brief underwater freediving encounters, whether 30 seconds or a few minutes, make freedivers feel as though they are aquatic mammals. Freediving is often a more pleasurable experience due to the connection with marine life, the meditative state of mind, the slow movements, and the feeling being an aquatic mammal yourself.

Q: Is freediving hazardous?

A: Without proper training, education, and especially supervision, one small miscalculation in staying down just a little too long, or moving too much at depth could prove tragic – even fatal. Knowledgeable, competent and qualified freediving buddies must ALWAYS be used. Proper training and education is mandatory to successfully understand proper breathing techniques, proper equalizing, proper underwater motions, and proper buddy techniques – including freediver rescue. Without this specialized training the potential for ear injuries, lung injuries, and unconsciousness due to blackout is high. See Freediving Safety for more information.

Q: Where can I get specialized training to learn how to freedive?

A:

Q: Can you get decompression sickness, a.k.a. the bends, from freediving?

A: Yes, but only rarely and only in extreme breath-hold diving situations. Advanced freedivers conducting repetitive deep dives for long periods underwater, with little recovery time at the surface have developed decompression sickness from an accumulation of nitrogen in the body. History has revealed commercial freedivers (those making a living harvesting pearls, sponges, lobster, fish, etc.) doing breath-hold dives for several hours in a day, to depths of 60 to 90+ feet, for periods of two minutes or more per dive, have displayed signs and symptoms of decompression sickness. However, most recreational freedivers do not come close to this phenomenon. Others have become “bent” (decompression sickness) from conducting repetitive breath-hold dives using a diving scooter. Also, never freedive after scuba diving. The high rate of ascents and descents in a freedive cause saturated nitrogen from the previous scuba dive to expand and contract in the bloodstream and tissues. This can easily lead to decompression sickness. See Freediving Safety for more information.

Q: How come lungs do not collapse when descending or burst on the way up to the surface?

A: When a freediver takes a breath at the surface the lungs fill to the ambient pressure at the surface. When the freediver goes underwater, the pressure of the water increases as the freediver goes deeper. This increasing pressure squeezes several air spaces of the freediver. The largest of those air spaces is the lungs. The lungs can compress to a remarkably small size, and due to a “blood shift”, the lungs compress equally instead of flattening, thus preventing them from collapsing. As the diver ascends, the water pressure decreases allowing the air spaces to expand back to their original size upon reaching the surface. If a freediver were to take a breath of air at depth, for example from a scuba tank or a pocket of air, upon ascent that freediver could suffer a fatal lung overexpansion injury. This takes place due to the air in the lungs expanding more than the original volume inhaled at the surface, which could lead to air rupturing the lungs. See Freediving Safety for more information.

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Pictures provided by Rebecca Garrett, Deron Verbeck, Tec Clark and Jon Zeaman.