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What Is Freediving? Everything You Need To Know

Want to know how to learn to freedive? What freediving equipment to buy? Where to freedive in the UK? We have the answers...

What is Freediving? Is it just to dive without oxygen? Well- in it’s simplest form – yes.

Freediving has exploded in popularity in the last few years. Once only the sport of accomplished divers and photographers, it’s now becoming a sought after hobby within general sports and activity.

In its simplest form, freediving is diving without the assistance of breathing apparatus and without leaving any effect on your surroundings. To accomplish this, freedivers learn breath hold techniques in order to do entire dives on one breath.

If you’ve ever swum underwater while holding your breath for any amount of time, you’ve experienced freediving.

Freediving is a great way to explore the oceans reefs

The origins of freediving can be found in Ancient cultures that used to dive for sponges, using weights tied to their body, to reach the body of sea bed. Mentions of sponge by Plato suggest that freediving dates back as early as the Archaic Period.

One of the earliest recorded instances of freediving is of the Ama pearl divers, found 2,000 years ago in Japan. The divers were almost always female and specialised in freediving 30ft into cold water wearing nothing more than a loincloth.

“The first competitions were the skandalopetra, which was based off the first sponge divers” says Ian Donald of Freedive UK. “They were the first who started competing against each other.”

“Popular freediving as we know it now was really kicked it off by people seeing The Big Blue, a documentary of freedivers doing competiitons.”

“It coincided with the formation of Aida International as an organisation. Before Aida existed there was no organised national or international competitions, they were the first ones who started properly tidying the whole thing up.”

Freedivers prefer diving without heavy scuba equipment and tanks

Different Types Of Freediving

While the technique of freediving is the same in any environment, it does not look the same in every case.

Competitive freedivers is divided into eleven different disciplines, each practicing the breath hold technique in different environments and circumstances.

During training most freedivers practice static apnea, in which a divers hold their breath in a still position in a swimming pool, while another person times them.

When practiced recreationally, freedives can be anything between deep dives on a line to very shallow dives around reefs and rocks and mid depth dives with sealife and bigger sea mammals.

Monofins are preferred by many deep sea freedivers

Freediving Training

While giving freediving a try looks like a very simple thing that anyone can do, in reality, everyone should have a short course or tutorial before diving on their own.

“It’s one of those thing that’s incredibly easy thing to get into and a very tempting thing to get into it without instruction” says …..

“It’s not like scuba, where you have to have a certificate to hire a tank, so  So the temptation to do it without a course is really strong, if you want to freedive, you should definitely do a course to sty safe.”

The basic techniques that go into freediving are simply the practice of breath hold and building a tolerance to higher levels of carbon dioxide in the body.

A course teaches individuals to understand the bodies reaction to rising carbon dioxide levels, how to hold their breath beyond their usual comfort level and how to come back to the surface and regain normal breathing in a safe way.

Freedivers equalize pressure while moving down

What Gear Do You Need?

At the most basic level, you can freedive or practice breath hold without any specialist equipment, but different conditions require additional pieces of kit.

If you’re diving with Freedive UK, or another school in the UK, you will need a wetsuit as the temperature drops significantly at lower depths and deeper dives in the ocean requires a diver to wear a mask to safely map out their route to the surface.

There are two types of fins used by most freedivers, by fins, one separate fin on each foot and monofins, one large fin that hold both feet, to create a dolphin-like movement.

“By fins are more useful for recreational stuff” says Ian “You can still snorkel with them on the surface, they’re more maneuverable, they’re easy to pack.”

“Mono fins are technically more efficient for doing distance or depth, all of the records have been set with monofins.”

“They have the downside however of being massive and being very difficult to use on the surface and their very tight around the feet.”

Freediving Films

The Big Blue, a film about competitive freedivers, is the most well known film about the sport and inspired many people to give freediving a go.

Many divers point however, towards record holder Guillaume Nery’s videos, for true freediving inspiration.

Where Can You Do It In The UK?

The UK is not known for its freediving spots, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still find some great dives.

If you’re a beginner learning to freedive, head down to the west coast of the UK for more chance of clear waters. There’s schools such as Freedive UK in Cornwall which teach classes in the ocean.

Anyone wants to aim for depth should look for a school that teaches their classes in quarries. Quarry water are great for focusing on learning to dive deep.

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