This one is similar to a shallow water blackout, but there’s a very important distinction we need to be aware of.

As we previously discussed with shallow water blackout, the risks of freediving are very real but the risks can be prevented. Samba is similar to shallow water blackout and is often used to describe the loss of motor control that occurs right before a blackout. And this is true, typically, the diver will spasm, and lose the ability to control their muscles, limbs and or neck while still being conscious. This will cause them to in essence go limp, in many cases they will then experience a black out.

However, something most divers are not aware of is that Samba often occurs up to 15-20 seconds after a diver has reached the surface and taken their first breath following a long dive and breathhold.

Practically speaking this is probably the most critical difference between shallow water blackout and samba. And as a buddy this means that while watching your buddy dive, you must be watching them and be ready to assist them while they are underwater, surfacing, and also keeping a close eye on them after they have surfaced to ensure that they don’t experience a samba or shallow water blackout before they surface, or a samba even after they have surfaced and taken their first breath.


The symptoms of a samba that you should be looking out for include, an inability to keep eyes open, erratic movement indicating minor losses of muscle or fine motor control, air bubbles leaking out of their mouth, disorientation, inability to keep their head out of the water, and or a total loss of muscle control. It’s also important to note that many divers experience samba and exhibit the symptoms without even realising it. This further stresses the importance of having a knowledgeable and alert buddy.

Similarly to shallow water blackout, samba becomes a larger risk when divers are pushing their breathhold times and undergoing repetitive dives without properly resting between their dives. When divers do not relax and breathe up for a few minutes between each dive they don’t sufficiently reoxygenate themselves. Thus the most critical thing that can be done to prevent samba is to take the time to recover after a long dive so that your body can be reoxygenated.

It’s also important that if you do feel strange while freediving, do not disregard this as it may be early signs of a samba setting in. It’s important to let your buddy know, and resurface immediately. Remember that samba can set in after resurfacing, so be sure to alert your buddy that you are feeling unusual and to keep a very close eye on you as you swim to shore.

Should a samba set in and you lose motor control and begin to sink, follow the same steps we previously discussed with our shallow water blackout. Hold your buddys head out of the water, remove their mask, and get them to shore, providing CPR if required.

Freediving is a fun and safe activity, but it does carry risks, and it’s critical to manage these risks. With proper procedures in place and divers being aware of how to manage these risks it’s also a safe activity. Make sure your buddy sees this.