About Us
Board of Directors
Associate Members
Contact Us
Principles of Apnea
Apnea Safety
Getting Started
Newsletter & Articles
Public Outreach
Members Only
For the Diving Professional
Current News
Apnea in the News
Media Resources
Media Releases
References and Resources

For the Diving Professional

» Instructors

» Watermanship Skills from Freediving

» Business Aspects of Freediving


Freediving offers you a way to add value to your basic scuba courses as well as add another level of offering to your overall services. Freediving has many advantages for your clients. They will be more confident, have better body awareness in the water, learn the best way to breath while on scuba, and be more in tune with their body while they dive (just to name a few). You are already armed by your training agency with programs to introduce basic freediving concepts.

Most instructors choose not to complete optional freediving skills in their open water course. USAA would like to encourage all instructors to complete these programs with all your clients.

Breathing for Scuba: Lessons from those who only have one breath to do what they have to do. (by Grant Graves)

Freedivers do their dives relying only on the breath they carry with them. So, you can bet they make the breaths leading up to a dive really good ones. In fact, freedivers actively work on how they breathe. The old adage in scuba of deep slow breathing is true, but only scratches the surface of what is involved. Proper breathing is almost universally not taught in scuba courses.

Freedivers use deep breathing techniques prior to a dive to optimize the gas exchange in their lungs. They use their physiology to its full advantage to insure they have the maximum use of their last breath. Scuba divers benefit from these techniques while diving gaining maximum breathing efficiency and extending the duration of their gas supply. Unfortunately, the vast majority of scuba divers never learn how to breathe properly. This becomes very apparent when diving with virtually any group of divers. Breathing remains one of the great under utilized tools of diving.

Simply put, the visual image used for proper breathing is to fill your lungs from the bottom and empty them from the top. Seems simple enough, however very few ever seem to master the technique or more appropriately are never taught the technique.

The proper technique is known as diaphragmatically initiated breathing. It takes advantage of lung physiology. It is important to understand a bit about the lungs to understand why how you breath is as important as breathing at all. All parts of the lungs are not created equal when it comes to gas exchange. Most divers breathe primarily in the top of their lungs. This technique reverses that. The bottom one third of the lungs is responsible for seventy percent of gas exchange in the lungs. This is why it is critical to keep the lower third of the lungs occupied with gas for as much of the breathing cycle as possible.

So, the next time you teach an open water course, spend some time teaching your clients to do something they think they already know how to do, teach them to breathe properly.

Have your clients begin to fill their lungs from the bottom first by actively extending their diaphragm out while not using the chest at all. Now, this is not the sexiest way to look, but it does allow the lungs to fill from the bottom up. Have them concentrate on just using their diaphragm to breathe with. This looks like a pooch in the belly moving in and out. Once they are able to just breathe from their diaphragm, have them add their chest to the inhalation about half way through the expansion of their diaphragm. Once they have a comfortable full breath they should pause in a relaxed way for a second or two.

The number one rule in scuba is to never hold your breath. This is not a forced hold of their breath, but rather a pause in a relaxed way. If a depth change were to occur the air would simply be exhaled. It is important to emphasize to your clients that they should never forcefully hold at the top of the breath. It should be relaxed enough to allow for any expansion of gas in the lungs to easily pass and be exhaled.

The next step is to extend their exhalation. This can be done using the tongue on the roof of their mouth. Freedivers use pursed lips, but that is tough with a regulator in your mouth to do. The diver should feel as if the gas is leaving their lungs from the top to the bottom. The ideal is to keep the lower lung inflated for as much of the breathing cycle as possible. Once mastered this new breathing technique will take anywhere from ten to fifteen seconds to complete.

When done properly, the diver begins to develop a breathing parameter. The concept of a breathing parameter is an important concept to introduce at all levels of training. A breathing parameter is the rate, depth and way you breath while you dive. We need to optimize our BPs at all times when we dive.

When diaphragmatically initiated breathing is used in scuba, the diver does not need to change breathing parameter when experiencing changing workloads as there is no more efficient way to exchange gas in their lungs. Considerable work, time and effort should be used during all training to correct the diver's psychological urge to lose ideal breathing when experiencing exertion. There is no reason to go back to rapid shallow breathing when faced with increased workloads as that is only going to use gas faster and make the diver feel worse and more starved for gas. This is mental training as much as it is physical training. We need to reverse the tendancy of divers under stress to consume gas rapidly with the least efficient way of breathing possible.

This is a foundation of becoming a good scuba diver. There is no better place to introduce foundational skills than at the very beginning. It is important to establish this foundation and emphasize that your clients should go back to this as soon as they realize they are out of ideal breathing. There are times when all divers leave ideal BP. Teaching divers to correct bad performance is often more valuable to them than just learning the ideal performance. The easiest way for someone to regain ideal breathing when breathing rapidly is to extend exhalation.

The active component of our breathing is the inhalation phase, exhalation is actually the relaxation phase of breathing. So, it is very important to minimize any effort while exhaling. Regulator quality has a great deal to do with exhalation resistance more so than inhalation effort. So, to regain proper BP, it is better to begin to relax exhalation. Teach your clients to begin to extend their exhalation on each breathing cycle. As they begin to relax, they will regain their ability to use ideal breathing. It is generally a good idea to have them stop their activity while they regain their BP.

Now, there are times when scuba divers want to not be in their ideal BP. This occurs when adjusting buoyancy and controlling tight hovers. Extending inhalation or exhalation is still fine. Just make sure that your clients do this still filling from the bottom and emptying from the top. Teach them to not hold their breath to hold position but to maintain a tighter range of lung volume while doing so by inhaling sooner and/or not exhaling completely.

As divers gain experience and rise in the ranks, proper breathing becomes even more paramount. At advanced technical diving levels the maintenance of BP can mean the difference between life and death. So, work with clients from the beginning to help them establish the breathing foundation needed for them to be confident and effective. Freediving provides a great training ground to continue to work on ideal breathing.

[ TOP ]

Watermanship Skills from Freediving

Another foundational skill in scuba is that of trim and swimming in the water. Freedivers must minimize their efforts in the water to maximize their performance. When scuba divers learn to freedive they gain valuable awareness of their bodies in the water. They also increase their awareness of how water moves over their body. All of which makes their awareness of moving through the water while using scuba better. This is an awareness that is missing from most divers, but can have a large impact on performance when not considered.

Salt water weighs 64 pounds per cubic foot. That means that every additional foot of surface area a diver adds to their profile in the water increases their swimming effort by 64 pounds of force for each foot they move through the water. The bottom line is that most divers present a much larger surface area than they have to in the water. This causes them to expend more energy, use more gas, and enjoy diving less. Freediving is a great tool to help increase divers' awareness to being hydrodynamic because by moving without all the gear it is easier to experience the water moving past their bodies.

In freediving, conservation of movement and energy is critical. Freedivers learn to only use the energy necessary to accomplish their goals. Wasted movement and energy only hurts performance. So, this is a valuable lesson for scuba divers. It is important for your clients to understand that they want to develop techniques that will allow them to only use the energy required to accomplish what they want to do and using anything else is unnecessary. Surely, you realize that diving became easier the more you do it. It is because you became more efficient at moving in the water, your body became aware of what muscles needed to be used to perform and did not use the others any more. Your clients will benefit from having freediving help them learn how to move in the water with less effort.

[ TOP ]

Business Aspects of Freediving:

Freediving Benefits

By Grant W. Graves

With the flat growth of scuba over the last few years freediving has not been subject to this predicament. Freediving has been seeing unprecedented growth. For us as scuba industry members it is time to view freediving as a partner in our business. Freediving offers many benefits for Instructors, Facilities and Resorts alike.

The strongest asset that freediving brings to our business is that it gets people into the water with a very low threshold for entry. In this age of been there done that, many other activities offer easier and faster access to participation for those interested. Diving has faced a high barrier for entry. Freediving allows someone with interest in the underwater world the ability to see it very quickly.

Freediving provides a highly visible platform of athletes that draw the attention of the public. As these athletes' achievements become more visible even more people will be attracted to the water as freedivers. We are already seeing people coming to freediving with their goal to participate in diving as freedivers rather than as scuba divers. These people are not snorkelers. They are looking to dive to depth and spend extended time their. The athletes they see motivate these participants and they want the services and training required to participate at a high level.

The cool thing is that as scuba industry members we already have several tools available to address this audience. We have snorkeling and skin diving programs. This does not mean you have to change your existing offerings to accommodate this growing market. Simply add additional courses and programs geared toward the growing interest in freediving. Rename them as introductory freediving programs or basic freediving.

You do have to realize that if you want to address this growing market you will need to educate yourself about what the new world of freediving is all about. The participants in the sport are more sophisticated than the common holiday snorkeler. They have done their homework. They very likely follow their favorite athletes progress in training and competitions. If you are prepared and gain knowledge about freediving, you can successfully cater to this niche in the market.

The interesting thing is as people freedive they become more comfortable in the water. In our current market, anything that allows people to place their face in the water with a mask on is a great thing. Many freedivers have come to the activity after learning to scuba dive. They may have many reasons to do this. However, most, if not all, still participate in scuba. It is even more encouraging when participants begin with freediving to access the water. Most eventually learn to scuba dive. Either way, anything that keeps people in the water rather than somewhere else only helps us.

Freediving is not a competitor to scuba. They are parallel paths to the same end; getting people to enjoy the natural world underwater. Many scuba industry members have not taken advantage of the non-scuba programs that exist from their training agency. The time is right to make a concerted effort to add these to your regular offerings. You can add significant value to these programs by building them up a bit. You can work to gain the added expertise to help you do this. There is high-perceived value for the participants of organized and well thought out freediving programs.

Even more interesting, you will find that by learning more about freediving your own scuba skills will likely improve. Freediving has a great deal to offer in crossover skills for scuba. General comfort in the water and body awareness is a clear benefit of freediving. This is often overlooked when trying to help clients gain confidence in their diving. Try adding the optional skin dive to your Open Water program, especially for those clients that need to develop added confidence.

The recovery and workup breathing for freediving is ideal training for proper breathing for scuba. You can imagine that if a freediving athlete is going to use one breath to perform their amazing feats that the breaths they take prior to holding that one breath are going to be good ones. Seventy percent of the gas exchange in our lungs occurs in the lower one third. We have always understood that we are supposed to take long deep breaths. However, how that is exactly supposed to happen is not regularly taught. Freediving offers a clear and defined path to work on how to breathe.

Freediving athletes use diaphragmatic breathing. When mastered, this technique offers the ideal breathing for scuba. I have personally seen divers gain twenty to forty percent improvements in their gas duration after practicing these breathing techniques. The techniques are not difficult, but do require proper training and considerable practice to master. Retraining old inefficient breathing techniques can take time. Every increase in breathing efficiency translates directly to increased available gas supply for the scuba diver. This means a direct payoff in available bottom time. For the technical diver, it means added survival skills and reserve time.

Freediving helps develop a keen awareness of hydrodynamics. The freediving athlete trains to minimize the effort it takes to move through the water. Learning more about freediving can help every scuba diver develop better feel for the water and help improve their hydrodynamics while using scuba. You simple learn how to feel the water better. This directly pays off in easier dives, less exertion, increased gas efficiency and great comfort in the water.

Many people are drawn to freediving because of the spiritual aspects of the experience. While this may seem silly to some, many have come to scuba diving for the same reason. While not for everyone, this is certainly something to be aware of. If a client is drawn to freediving for this reason, you will want to continue to address that motivation when it comes time to deal with them for scuba.

Freediving does create strong mind body connections. This development is much stronger than with scuba. The lack of life support equipment fosters this. The interesting thing is that awareness translates back to scuba. Freedivers have a much better awareness of their own physical needs and physical condition while on scuba as well. This is something that certainly would benefit all divers.

Freediving allows participants to set and achieve measurable goals. Advances are made over months and years. This provides us as scuba industry members the ability to have regular contact with highly motivated people. Hosting practice sessions, training events, competitions, charting participants' progress over time, developing web based tracking systems, increasing your own knowledge about freediving, and offering increased services for freedivers can all lead to increased customer contact. Because development occurs over years and has no real stopping point, it guarantees you an audience for as long as you facilitate the relationship. The training never stops. Unfortunately, scuba does not carry the same clear message, although it should.

Clear physical measure is absent from scuba diving. Freediving carries with it the ability to objectively measure performance. How long a person can hold their breath, how deep they can dive or how far they can swim on one breath of air. It also carries with it the need for additional training. Like all active sports, freediving has risks. This provides scuba industry members with the ability to cross promote CPR/First Aid training and Oxygen Administration courses. Any active freediver is going to want and understand the need for this training.

As people progress in freediving they are optimum candidates for a Rescue Diver course. Of course, this means they have to be certified scuba divers and hold the necessary prerequisites. All things as scuba industry members we can readily supply for them.

Even if someone is not interested in freediving they could very well be attracted to the personalities involved. This would lead those who are interested to learn to scuba dive to help provide safety during freediving events. A freediving event involving diving to depth is impossible without the support of many shallow and technical scuba divers. There is a group of participants in freediving that are drawn to it because of the scuba diving involved. You might just find as you have more freediving going on around your facility that you gain an audience of people who want to come to scuba diving to help freediving.

Of course, freediving has its own set of specialized equipment. Long bladed fins, carbon fiber, monofins, skin in wetsuits, low volume masks, rubber weight belts, freediving computers, and much more. If you cater and carry this specialized gear, you can count on being a leader in your area. Most dive facilities just do not bother. While it may not be the center of your facility's business, it is a highly technical and specialized area that can provide rewards if you gain the proper knowledge to do it well.

The scuba industry has exiting programs that with a bit of creative thinking and new names can make you ready to address this audience at a basic level. However, if you want to fully address the growing market you will need to increase your own awareness of the sport and the growing science behind it. Once you have done so, you can submit distinctive specialties for higher levels of freediving education to your training agency. However, you will need more of an understanding than just having freedived for years. Get educated, take additional training, communicate with your fellow scuba industry members who are active in the sport, and stay open to the cross training opportunities involved in freediving for scuba.

The two activities are not separate, just two variations on the same theme. Remember that anything that allows people access to the underwater world will in the long run benefit us as scuba industry members. In addition, anything that creates a regular dialog with our clients and brings them back to interact with us is a great thing. Freediving provides us benefits directly as divers and also as scuba industry members. Consider gaining a better understand of this growing activity.

Freediving resources can be found at:

[ TOP ]

United States Team
Member Login
Donate to United States Apnea Association
Shop the USFD Store
USFD Community
United States Apnea Association (USAA) © 2005 • All rights are reserved.
Pictures provided by Rebecca Garrett, Deron Verbeck, Tec Clark and Jon Zeaman.