This article originally appeared in I AM WATER Ocean Travel.
FREEDIVING FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT IS FREEDIVING?
Freediving Q&A With I AM WATER Foundation’s Hanli Prinsloo, Freediving is an age-old practice of exploring the ocean on one breath. With its roots in subsistence living off the sea, freediving is today a competitive sport with disciplines, competitions and records. But in essence it is just the act of holding your breath underwater.
WHY FREEDIVING AND NOT SCUBA DIVING?
Freediving is the most natural way of being underwater. The last few years have seen freediving grow to one of the biggest expanding water-sports in the world. A few of the things we love: it’s more athletic than scuba, it allows you to get much closer to the animals and to move faster and more freely (in all directions), least ecosystem impact, less expensive as you don’t need much equipment or refills and it’s easy to learn. Even though you might think freediving will limit your time below, the seconds or minutes you do spend there are beautifully silent. Learning freediving is a tool to explore your body’s aquatic ability as well as the marine environment, particularly the big animals. Our experience is that most of the large marine creatures much prefer the interaction of a freediver than that of a scuba diver taking noisy breaths and blowing scary bubbles.
IS THERE AN AGE LIMIT ON THE TRIP?
Some of our trips are more suited to families than others, and in some instances we would recommend a bespoke experience to cater to specific age groups. But in short, no – freediving is for all ages and we love working with children.
I AM A TOTAL BEGINNER CAN I STILL COME?
Yes! Our trips are structured in such a way that we can cater to both absolute beginners and more advanced freedivers. With multiple instructors on each trip, we are able to adjust accordingly.
I DON’T THINK I CAN HOLD MY BREATH FOR VERY LONG…
Most people don’t think they can hold their breath long enough! Part of your week with us is learning how to breathe properly for freediving, lung stretching and yoga to increase lung volume as well as in-water and on land breath hold training. But even if you don’t manage to hold your breath for very long or you discover that freediving is too challenging for you, you can always stick to snorkeling and still have great ocean encounters.
DO YOU HAVE TO BE VERY FIT FOR FREEDIVING?
Fitness and general health helps, but we work with what you bring. Freediving in itself can be a strenuous activity, but we adjust to suit the needs of our guests.
CAN I FREEDIVE WITH ASTHMA?
Our experience is that asthmatics in fact do very well freediving as you are already aware of your breathing. As a freedive is much shorter than a scuba dive, you will always have immediate access to emergency equipment (e.g. an inhaler) on the boat if the need should arise.
I’VE HAD TROUBLE EQUALISING IN THE PAST, SHOULD I EVEN BOTHER COMING?
We’re happy to share some tricks and tips with you before your departure on how to get rid of pesky equalisation issues that are often diet related. We also cater food specifically for freediving during your stay with us, and we have many techniques not common to scuba training that could work for you. However if you believe you may have a physiological abnormality, a visit to your doctor or an ENT (ear, nose, throat specialist) might be worth it.
WHAT IS EQUALISATION..?
Any gas submerged in water gets compressed. Our inner ear is a small pocket of air and when we go underwater, this pocket of air needs to be ‘equalised’ (if not you can burst your ear-drum, which does heal but you will need to be dry for several weeks). Anyone can be taught to equalise and there are in fact several techniques, but it is harder for some than for others. We have found that with the right preparation and training our guests learn to equalise comfortably.
HOW DEEP DO WE FREEDIVE ON THE TRIPS?
This is completely individual and will depend on your ability to equalise and hold your breath. On average we find our guests progressing from surface snorkelers to anywhere between 8 and 20 meters during a week with us.
CAN I GET A CERTIFICATION FOR THE COURSE?
Yes. All our trips are run by certified freediving instructors and we incorporate all the theory and training needed to be certified for your Level 1 Freediving Certification. If all requirements are met during training, we conclude with an exam on the last night for those who want the certification.
SHOULD I / CAN I PRACTICE BEFORE I COME ON THE TRIP?
You do not need to do any training or preparation before the trip, but there are certain things you can do to prepare if you want to. Once you are booked on a trip with us, get in touch and we can share some training, dietary and stretching / yoga preparation with you.
WILL I BE COMPLETING A MEDICAL FORM TO PARTICIPATE?
Yes. All participants will have to fill out a Medical Questionnaire. If you answer YES to any of the questions regarding health limitations, we would need a letter from your doctor that states you are fit to freedive. If you are unsure whether you will answering YES to a health limitation, get in touch and we can do the paperwork before your departure with ample time to get your doctors’ go-ahead.
I’D LIKE TO BRING MY OWN EQUIPMENT, WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND?
We supply basic snorkelling equipment on all our signature trips. If you’re interested in purchasing freedive specific equipment before your trip, get in touch and we can advise you on the best equipment for freediving or we can order for you from our preferred suppliers and bring for you.
IS IT A PROBLEM THAT I DON’T KNOW HOW TO SWIM?
We have a lot of experience working with people who don’t know how to swim, and even teach freediving to those who have very basic swimming skills. However, we recommend you know how to swim before coming on our trips and do let us know if you are in doubt of your swimming ability so we can make the necessary safety preparations with regards to number of instructors.
IS FREEDIVING DANGEROUS?
Freediving is a potentially risky sport that when practiced responsibly is not dangerous at all. We teach a conservative slow progression approach to freediving where you will explore your limitations and capabilities under the expert eye of top freediving instructors. The biggest risk in freediving is practicing alone, something we never do or allow, and part of your week-long course with us is safety, risk and rescue training.
All photos ©Peter Marshall, I AM WATER Foundation.