The sport of freediving is growing, and more divers are expanding on the basic principles of breathhold techniques to explore life in deep blue water.
This section is the ideal place for beginners to learn which courses are available, what kind of equipment you need, and the safety rules to follow when you first start free-diving.
Simply put, being below the surface of water while holding your breath is freediving (also called free-diving or skin diving).
So, what are the benefits of becoming a freediver and is it dangerous?
You need an aqualung (air supply) to go scuba diving. But, making a breath hold dive using a mask and fins defines you as a freediver - no matter how deep you go down.
Long ago, being able to hold your breath underwater was a necessity for most humans. It was a means of hunting for food or searching for valuable items (e.g. lost overboard).
Pro Tip: Another section contains a list of equipment needed for spearfishing, including the essentials that first-timers need to start hunting for fish underwater.
There is a long list of scuba diving certification levels, but only a few freediver certification levels. Even so, anyone learning to freedive must meet certain age requirements and complete a medical history form.
You will need to demonstrate some basic water skills to show you are comfortable in water. In fact, the swim test is the same as the one in the Open Water scuba course, being (either):
There is no set time limit to complete this particular requirement. Plus, you can use any of the different swimming strokes (e.g. breast stroke, front crawl).
You need to meet all of the performance requirements to qualify for the certification. But, individuals with physical challenges may still meet the performance requirements (e.g. by using adaptive techniques).
Note: The course requirements for Basic Freediver certification are a subset of the Freediver course (knowledge development and a confined water session).
So, now you may be wondering what kind of equipment you need to start freediving? The basic essentials would be a mask, a pair of fins, and a snorkel. You may also need an exposure suit - unless you will be diving in warm water environments.
Obviously, wearing a wetsuit means you can stay down longer. But, adding a wetsuit to your equipment list means you will need some weights too (e.g. to counterbalance the extra buoyancy).
Most professionals wear long blade freediving fins. But, a simple pair of swim fins should suffice for beginners. As your training expands, additional gear and accessories for recreational freedivers, includes:
Note: Another section contains a comprehensive list of freediving equipment and safety accessories, and how it differs from the gear snorkelers use.
The different disciplines in competitions reflect how you hold your breath and perform in water. It is based around worldwide competitiveness involving individuals and teams of professional freedivers.
Disclaimer: The information in this freediving guide for beginners does not replace the professional tuition that you would get in a sanctioned course. You should never freedive alone or practice holding your breath without a companion.
Students will need to complete a Freediver Medical History Form. Thus, you will need to answer questions about certain medical conditions that could create a dangerous situation while freediving.
Assuming none of them apply to you, go ahead and sign the form and you can start the lessons. However, a doctor will need to assess the condition if any of the contraindications apply to your overall health.
Note: Local laws in certain areas require all students to consult with a physician before entering into a freediver course.
The official data about the effects of flying after freediving is somewhat sketchy and limited. Nonetheless, having a longer interval between freediving and flying lowers the risk of decompression sickness (DCS).
Despite being a relatively safe sport, there are some common injuries and sicknesses associated with free diving activities, including:
Note: The accidents and incidents section is a growing database of scuba fatalities and free diving deaths and how we can learn from the misfortunes of others.
Speak to most freedivers and they will tell you that experiencing a random shark encounter in open water is about as thrilling as this unique sport gets.
Even so, following these 5 tips for freediving near sharks can make an unexpected rendezvous a little less daunting - and a lot more tranquil.
What if you are a freediver certified through another training organisation. In some cases, you may want to enrol for a higher level course in the PADI Freediver system.
There is a simple process to get a skills and knowledge assessment from a PADI Freediver Instructor. But, your current certification will determine which level you can start at.
Note: The short video presented by PADI® [1:01 seconds] spotlights the discipline and control needed to stay underwater while your breath allows it.