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What is Freediving?

What is Freediving?

The surface of the sea is calm and still, and the shining sun makes the water look like liquid light. A black wetsuit floats like a shadow on the surface. It belongs to a person who is resting in the water, face down and motionless, breathing calmly through a snorkel. The slow hiss of air flowing through the snorkel mixes with the sounds of the sea as the divers takes a deep inhale and, with a gentle duck of the head and flip of the hips, the body disappears below the surface and the long fins elegantly point towards the sky before gliding vertically into the sea. The sounds of breathing melt into the ocean with the soft stirring of water the only remaining sign of the diver. 

“Liquid silence fills the ears, the body gives way to gravity and simply glides through the water as if as one with the ocean. The landscape unfolds around you and, almost at once, you feel a transformation. The tranquility envelopes you. It’s as if you belong.”

Moments later, the diver reappears; breaking the surface to return from their voyage into the liquid world and the pause between breaths. Breaking the surface, a big inhale of fresh, sea air fills their lungs and reinvigorates the senses as the warm sunlight falls upon their face once again. The diver leans back to float, face up, upon the surface. Gazing at the sky and taking in each breath. A peaceful smile and a sense of relaxed satisfaction fill the body. 

This is Freediving.

Freediving, also known as ‘Apnea’, is a modern form of an ancient diving technique that originated as a method of foraging for dietary staples such as shellfish as well as valuable resources such as sponges and pearls or salvageable wreckage. Though there are communities that still practise this style of freediving as a practical way of life, (Walking and Hunting on the Ocean Floor | Living by the Oceans Documentary - YouTube), their methods have evolved slightly, alongside new technologies, into things like spearfishing and lobster hooking.

The modern, commercialised, form of Freediving that we tend to see in dive centers today aims to build upon age-old foundations by adding just one thing to the experience; Recreation. While many people practise freediving in the form of spearfishing - indeed, this often acts as a gateway to the broader sport - and most leading agencies offer practical training to support this, lots of people are attracted to recreational freediving for various reasons.

Usually, when people ask about Apnea, they already have an image in their minds of someone fearlessly descending to the depths of the ocean with just one breath of air in their lungs. Of course, in the world of competitive Freediving this is very much at the core of the discipline but that’s just a small part of this incredible sport. In reality, each time you hold your breath and slip below the surface - whether in the shallows or depths - you are a Freediver on a journey to explore the underwater world.

So, Freediving and Snorkeling, what’s the difference?

The act of swimming with a mask, snorkel and fins is most commonly referred to as ‘snorkeling’. This is a surface activity that allows you to catch a glimpse of the underwater world from above while maintaining a constant air flow through use of a snorkel. Freediving, on the other hand, will always involve a breath hold, regardless of how deep you go. Seen in this light, the two activities are easily combined. For example, if you go snorkelling and see an octopus a meter below and wish to take a photograph you’d first hold your breath and then dive down to take the photo. This is Freediving. A child holding their breath and swimming underwater in the swimming pool with a mermaid tail is also a form of Freediving. 

Put simply: Snorkeling + Breath hold + Underwater = Freediving

Just like snorkeling, Freediving is also a great way to be in contact with nature and wildlife. However, as a freediver, you can often enjoy close and intimate encounters with marine life as you authentically become part of their environment for a moment. The sea has been casting a spell on people all over the world since forever and, through freediving, you can experience a true and complete immersion in the oceans of the world.

In, and especially under, the water our bodies function differently. Gravity is erased, we become weightless and true three-dimensional, free movement is possible. Immersion in water combined with breath hold acts as a natural shortcut to relaxation as the mammalian diving reflex; a reflex by which immersing the face or body in water causes physiological changes that decrease oxygen consumption, slows the heart rate and decreases blood flow to the abdominal organs and muscles, until breathing resumes. The changes can be profound in some species of diving animals but it also occurs naturally in certain non-aquatic animals, such as humans. When this reflex gets activated and slows our heart rate down to conserve energy, our mind and body naturally relax and make room for pure presence in the moment between breaths and beneath the surface.

Apart from this, freediving can also be practiced as a competitive sport where physical and mental capabilities can be explored and compared in different disciplines, competing in depth, distance or time spent underwater.

Interested in discovering what diving on a single breath of air feels like? Come and take a Freediving course or introduction activity with us and find out for yourself! 

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