At first glance, freediving can look like a lonely sport. There is the freediver, descending into darkness and reaching the bottom, turning and starting the ascent, alone and cut off from the surface world. Diveye makes it possible for land-dwellers to see the entire dive, and to the untrained eye, freediving can look as solitary as archery or skiing. But is it really?
The first and most important rule of freediving is to never dive alone. This means diving and training alongside another trained freediver, not practicing static in the pool while the lifeguard watches or exploring a wreck at 15m (49ft) surrounded by snorkelers; non-freedivers do not know what signs of trouble to watch out for or proper rescue procedures, whereas a trained freediver does. In proper depth training sessions, we may be alone for the descent, turn, and part of the ascent, but we prepare ourselves at the surface with our safety nearby and meet them at depth during the last portion of our dive. Even during static and dynamic, there is always the diligent safety diver, following or standing nearby the diver, ever watchful for signs of trouble.
As with most sports, there are instructors that teach theory, safety skills, and proper technique during freediving courses. Coaches also help with technique and overcoming issues freedivers have, just outside of a freediving course. Both instructors and coaches follow the freediver down, fine-tune technique, and watch for potentially risky behaviors. Freedivers also might train with fellow freedivers who act as unofficial coaches and offer them helpful feedback, point out things that diver themselves might not notice in their performances, and support them during their failures. Both coaches and instructors are there during a freediver’s preparation time, during the performance (whether it is at the surface or on the sidelines), and are ready to talk them through recovery breathing when the athlete surfaces.
The freediving community is small, which means that many competitive freedivers know each other already, or have a mutual friend in common. The sense of competitiveness can still be strong, but the support for one another is also overwhelming. Even outside of competitions, when you are just diving with your fellow freediving friends, competitiveness can drive you to train harder, smarter, and more often. Since we train with other freedivers, we are always exposed to a certain level of competitiveness (and also support) that drives us to be better than we were yesterday.
People who freedive are passionate about their hobby. They talk about it amongst themselves endlessly, they share tips and videos with each other, but most of all, they spread their passion for non-divers. Freedivers usually stick together and find automatic friends (and dive buddies) in one another. They are there to celebrate new personal bests together, discuss common issues and how to fix them, and console each other when failures occur.
So, Is Freediving Really A Solitary Sport?
Absolutely not! It should surely be considered a team sport, backed by a team of instructors, coaches, and safeties. If you take the number one rule of freediving seriously, never dive alone, you know that even at depth, you have someone holding the line and feeling for your every movement, waiting to dive down and meet you in in the shallows. You are never truly alone as a freediver.