Freediving has become increasingly popular for good reasons.
The experience of going hundreds of feet deep without equipment and being this close to the underwater life is unmatched. However, it comes with a ton of risks.
For professional breath-holders Martin Stepanek, Liz Parkinson and Cameron Kirkconnell, it’s all about knowing what you’re getting into. Here are their expert tips on free diving.
Knowledge is power
No dive is worth your life. In freediving, you’re dealing with a different set of risks that can ultimately lead you to your demise if you go in unprepared. For these pros, it’s learning the principles.
“As freediving instructors, we teach divers in depth about the multiple triggers that you can use to your advantage to increase your abilities,” Kirkconnell says.
“One notable response is bradycardia, the slowing down of the heart rate to preserve more oxygen,” says Stepanek. “Another is peripheral blood shunt, which causes the blood vessels in the extremities to constrict, shifting oxygenated blood away from the parts of our body that don’t need a continuous supply of oxygen, and pushing it into circulation between heart and brain. There also are other intriguing parts of the reflex such as red-blood-cell elevation, which increases our blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity, plus a kind of pulmonary edema, which assists in protecting the lungs from damage at greater depths.”
Learn from the pros
If you’re simply going to rely online or in books to learn how to freedive, then you’re already on your way to writing your last will and testament. You must learn the ropes from the more experienced and knowledgeable pros who have been doing it for years.
“The ocean is not our home, but we love visiting that harsh, unforgiving environment,” Kirkconnell says. “Teaching students what is happening to their body, the safety protocols and the techniques to take full advantage of our innate abilities is what we do as instructors.” “Education — and diving within certain boundaries and safety parameters — can help make the sport enjoyable and safe,” Parkinson says. “Instructors are also there to share their passion, and maybe they will teach you an angle of the sport that you never thought about.”
Have the right tools
Freediving needs a special set of equipment (like long-blade fins, low-volume masks and smooth-skin apnea wetsuits) to make your experience safe and comfortable.
“As a freediver, conserving air is vital. To help with this, a low-profile mask is a must on your gear list,” says Parkinson. “The wetsuit needs to be sleek and streamlined. Some are seamless, have built-in hoods, and generally have a slightly tighter fit [than a traditional wetsuit made for scuba diving].”
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