Apnea Diving – What is Free Diving


Why is an article about freediving on a scuba diving website? The two sports have more in common than one might think! Scuba divers who are interested in discovering new ways to explore the underwater world, challenging themselves, or simply improving their scuba diving skills may be interested in learning about the increasingly popular sport of free diving.

The Challenge of Freediving
While scuba diving, snorkeling and freediving are all ways to explore the underwater world, freedivers typically have a different goal from scuba divers. Scuba divers and snorkelers usually dive to observe aquatic life and calmly enjoy the aquatic environment. Freedivers, on the other hand, typically attempt to achieve a depth or dive time. In fact, some of the freediving world records are quite impressive. Of course, freedivers also enjoy the beauty of the underwater environment but the goal is to challenge oneself and push one’s limits.

No Lung Over-Expansion or Nitrogen Issues
A scuba diver is taught to never hold his breath underwater, but a freediver holds his breath underwater throughout his entire dive. Why is this possible? While the air a freediver inhales does compress during descent and expand during ascent, the volume of air in a freediver’s lungs is never greater than it was on the surface because he does not inhale additional air underwater. For this reason, freedivers need not worry about lung over expansion. Similarly, a freediver’s body does not absorb nitrogen underwater (there is no additional nitrogen to absorb) so freedivers do not have to concern themselves with maintaining a safe ascent rate, exceeding no-decompression limits, or making safety stops. Freedivers may ascend and descend as quickly as they please!

Little or No Gear
Freediving is not as dependent upon equipment as scuba diving. Most freedivers use some gear, including fins, a mask, and a snorkel; if the water is cold they may use a wetsuit and a weight belt. However, none of this equipment is mandatory. Using less equipment allows a freediver to have a more personal experience with the underwater world.

Shorter Dive Times — But More Intense Dives
Freedives are significantly shorter than scuba dives. On a typical dive, Scuba divers can usually spend between 45 and 60 minutes underwater. An average freedive is only a few minutes. Why would anyone freedive when it is possible to stay underwater much longer on a scuba dive? For the rush! The two minutes a person spends underwater on a freedive are more intense than an entire hour on scuba gear. The short time a freediver stays underwater is achieved entirely through his own skill, without equipment to artificially extend his dive. The feeling of reaching a depth or time goal in freediving is exhilarating!

Ear Equalization Techniques Are Similar
Scuba divers may find themselves surprisingly well-prepared for freediving, because there are many similarities between the two sports. Both freediving and scuba diving require that the diver is comfortable and confident in the water. Scuba divers who have gained confidence underwater may find that freediving is an unexpectedly easy transition.
Many techniques learned during open water certification transfer into freediving. One example is ear equalization. Like scuba divers, freedivers must compensate for the pressure increase in their ears during a dive’s descent to avoid an ear barotrauma. In many cases, freediving techniques also transfer to scuba diving. For example, freedivers use different, more efficient equalization techniques than scuba divers because their descents are so rapid. Scuba divers may benefit from learning these techniques.

Swimming and Relaxation Techniques
A good scuba diver is relaxed, and moves slowly and calmly underwater, and the same is true of freedivers. The ability to be relaxed underwater is mandatory in freediving because freedivers must minimize their oxygen use in order to extend their dive times. Scuba divers who have already learned to stay calm in the water will have an easier time adjusting to freediving than people who have not.
Finally, the advanced relaxation techniques that freedivers use to extend their dives can be useful in scuba diving. For example, pre-dive freediving respiration techniques can be a great tool for scuba divers who want to calm themselves before a dive. Learning freediving respiration techniques may actually help a scuba diver to reduce his air consumption rate.

The Take Home Message About Freediving
When was the last time that you had an entirely new underwater experience? For those who love the water and enjoy scuba diving, freediving is a natural transition. The sport allows a scuba diver to discover new sensations underwater, and may help scuba divers to improve their underwater skills. In many ways, freediving is more challenging than typical recreational diving. Skills can always be improved and personal records can always be broken. Perhaps this is why freediving is so addicting!

Borde, Julien. Mar. 3, 2017

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