HOW TO FREEDIVE - INTRODUCTION TO FREEDIVING
Seeing it all from the surface is great, but being underwater is where it’s at!
Snorkelings great fun, but for those who want to experience a little more, and get a little closer to the wildlife we’re going to have to learn how to Freedive. Put simply, freediving is snorkelling underwater, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Learning how to dive and stay underwater is an art from in it of itself, but it’s an incredibly rewarding experience and it takes snorkeling to an entirely new level, allowing us to get closer to wildlife, see deeper marine life, and best of all experience a zero gravity like sensation.
The main difference in gear between snorkeling and freediving is that we need weights to allow us to get underwater and to stay underwater comfortably. For that we need either a weight belt or a weight vest. A lot of divers tend to just use a weight belt, but for many the use of both a weight belt and a vest allows for a more even distribution of weight and greater comfort, and allows divers to better manage their trim underwater.
The question now is how many weights should you wear underwater. This is different for every diver and changes depending on the thickness of the wetsuit you’re wearing. To give you a rough guide, a 55kg diver in a 3.5mm suit would probably require 2.5kg in weights to comfortably freedive, whereas a 70kg diver in a 3.5mm suit may require 4kg in weights. If you’re splitting your weights up into a vest and belt, you probably want around 70% of your weight on your belt.
The goal is to achieve neutral buoyancy. You want to be able to comfortably snorkel on the surface without sinking, but also have enough weight that you’re easily able to dive down without having to fight your wetsuits or body’s natural floatation. Especially starting out, you want to ensure that on the surface you have a slight amount of floatation keeping you up.
To test if you have the correct amount of weight, you want to perform a buoyancy test. If you’re a smaller diver, start with 1 or 2kg in weights, or if you’re a larger diver start with around 3kg, and in shallow water while wearing your weight belt and wetsuit lie down and float on the surface. If you find you’re sinking too much, stand up and remove some weight, alternatively, if you find that you’re still floating a lot, add some more weight and continue until you feel that you’re not sinking, but also not floating.
Also For safety it’s very important to know how to quickly remove and dump your weight belt so that you float to the surface. Always wear your weight belt so that it’s right hand release. Meaning, that the end of the belt is on your left hand side, such that your right hand is used to release and unbuckle your belt. This is a common practice to ensure that in an emergency every divers belt can be dumped the same way, and that your buddy is easily able to remove your weights if required. You should also be aware of how to quickly drop and unclip your weight vest.
It’s also very important to always dive with a buddy, the buddy system is a procedure where two divers dive together and operate as buddies, in which they will watch each other’s backs and ensure that if an accident happens there is help nearby. Each buddy is responsible for the ensuring the safety of the other buddy while in the water.
Now that we have our weights and our buddy, this is where the fun begins! We’re going to snorkel out to a deeper area, and learn how to duck dive underwater. The motion of getting underwater starts with a deep breath, and using your upper body momentum to propel your arms and head into the water first aiming straight down in a diving movement, and following that up with a strong kick. After kicking, keep your legs straight and allow your body and legs to enter the water. Once your fins are in the water you can continue to kick down and go deeper.
You will notice as you descent that you feel a sharp pinching feeling in your ears and sinuses. This is normal, and is caused due to the pressure changing with depth. To fix this, you will need to constantly equalise as you descent every few meters. To equalise, simply pinch your nose with your index finger and thumb and blow out your nose, similar to what you do on an aeroplane. You will feel your ears clear and return to normal. It is extremely important to equalise every few meters, and if your ears are not clearing and you are not successfully equalising, do not continue down and do not push through the pain as this can result in ear injuries. It’s also important that while underwater, that we take our snorkel out of our mouth as in an emergency it can operate like a funnel for water to enter our lung. To avoid this, simple remember to take your snorkel out of your mouth after diving underwater.Now that we’re underwater and can dive down, we need to stay underwater and practice holding our breath and increasing our bottom time. The longer we can safely and comfortably hold our breath, the deeper we can dive and the longer we can stay underwater. On a basic level, before diving down we want to calm ourselves down, slow our breathing, and take a few deep breaths before diving underwater. As a beginner when you feel like you’re running out of breath, it’s a good idea to return to the surface.