Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Freediving Introduction

I have many people ask me what they can do to better their breath hold, and or get deeper. I am often a bit nervous explaining techniques without having the time to fully explain safety procedures. This is the first of a three part series on freediving. 1.Intro 2.Anatomy of a breath hold 3.Going Deep. Enjoy

My foray into freediving began with fun trips around the Island with my best childhood friend Evan. We knew nothing of freediving except how to equalize our ears, but in no time, we were holding our breathe in excess of 2 minutes, getting to depths of 60 ft. and swimming through lava tubes and other overhead environments. Looking back on those early dives with a friend, I have nothing but joy, but I now realize the danger we put ourselves in repeatedly.

Fortunately I survived those early days of my diving career and went on to meet Micheal Morris. He was working on his dive master with our dive shop and I played an active roll in his training. He was a fast learner, as he was already a very accomplished freediver and spear fisherman. Listening to his feats revitalized my excitement in freediving, and I soon found myself diving with him and pushing my own limits again. Shortly after completing his dive master certification, Michael died during a freedive while spearfishing with friends at a familiar dive site. His death came as a shock to me and the rest of the diving community. He was found at some 80 ft. by his dive buddies after they realized they had not seen him for a while. Though the exact reason why he didn't come back from this fishing trip may never be known, the most likely culprit was a shallow water blackout. Shallow water blackout is the sudden loss of consciousness of a diver at the end of a dive in the last few feet of water before reaching the surface. Though it is well documented and the steps to avoid it are simple, shallow water blackout kills many divers around the world every year.

Michael's death immediately changed my freediving habits: I stopped. It was a few years and another job later when I took it up again. I had quit my job as a dive master and started work on a snorkel cruise as a life guard. Without my scuba gear to retrieve lost snorkels, masks and other belongings that found their way from my customers' ownership to the sea floor, I turned to freediving.

Immediately, I remembered the silent world of freediving, the mobility, the accomplishment, the fish that come closer, the dolphins that play longer, the freedom. Scuba quickly became a burden to me, and freediving was my passion once again. With the sting of Micheal's death fading in my mind, my fear of pushing the limits began to fade as well. I once again found myself comfortable at 60 ft, then 80, then 100.

Fortunately a friend of mine, Byron, began dating the wonderful and accomplished freediver, Jesse Edwards. She and her mother Annabel have set national and world records and were teaching Byron the ropes. After a conversation about the depths I was hitting, Byron urged that I train with them so I'd have proper safety divers. I agreed.

On my first day with the crew, I made a 143-foot freedive on my first target attempt. They warned me against attempting anything deeper that day, but I pushed to 150 on the next dive anyway only to blackout 10 ft. from the surface. The quick reaction of trained professionals around me saved my life that day. I went home with a headache, but no worse for wear.

Soon after I decided I need formal training and enrolled in a local FII freediving course. The course is designed by world champion Martin Stepaneck. It was an awesome experience, because I learned how little I actually knew. It filled me with a true respect for freediving, and now I only dive with trained buddies who follow strict safety precautions. I don't recommend that anyone attempt my underwater shenanigans without proper training and assistance.

Check Back next week where I explain in detail the anatomy of a breath hold.

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