My First Steps

I decided I wanted to start freediving after a trip to Malta two years ago, even though I wasn’t even aware it was a sport at the time. Near the hotel I was staying in was a deep pool of water in a beautiful, secluded bay. I decided to see how far down into it I could swim, using an old large-volume mask, no weights and no fins. I managed what I would estimate to be about 10 meters before the reduced light levels caused me to panic and dash to the surface. Instead of putting me off, this experience got me hooked; I did a scuba resort course on that same holiday, and joined a BSAC club when I got back to the UK.

At the moment I am currently scuba diving for pleasure, and am in a position to begin freediving seriously. The main attraction of freediving for me is the concept of competing against yourself and pushing your individual limits, which contrasts with other sports in which the object is to compete against others. Being in the water is also very relaxing, which is perhaps the most valuable thing I hope to gain from freediving.

The only real training possible for me at the moment is static apnea. I hold my breath for a minimum of 4:00-4:30 every day. When doing this I usually begin with 5 minutes of pranayama yoga; alternate-nostril breathing with a 2:8:4 or 4:16:8 ratio of inhalation, holding and exhalation, and deep breathing from my diaphragm. My first breathhold is almost always 2:30 long, with contractions starting at about 1:45-2:00. I then increase this time by 30 seconds per hold, with 2 minutes between breatholds. In this interval I breathe normally for a minute then gradually deepen my inhalations until I am taking full breaths. Using this technique I can comfortably manage breatholds of over 4 minutes.

Fortunately, due to doing a lot of yoga and martial arts when I was younger, I find it quite easy to relax both in and out of the water. However, I have found pranayama yoga and meditation to be helpful for both relaxation and as a means of preparation.

I’ve also recently started running in an effort to improve my overall fitness levels before I start training for dynamic apnea. Hopefully this will enable me to transform my static times into a good dynamic distance.

The only logged depth I have achieved when freediving is 7m, outside a small harbour in Malta a year after I began scuba diving. I was in scuba fins and boots with no weights, which made it more than a little difficult to get under the water! Since I began training daily, I have also improved my dry static to 5:00 and wet static apnea to 4:30. Unfortunately I can’t push these times much further until I begin training in a pool with an observer; I’m wary of pushing myself too far as I currently train in the bath!

Now that I am in a position to begin freediving seriously, I have set myself a number of goals. I would love to be able to dive to 20m-25m for 2 minutes at a time in comfort. Until I get a wetsuit, I have no idea how much work this will take, or if I’m even capable of doing it. I would also like to try and extend my static to over 6 minutes. When I go to University this October, I intend to make full use of the pool and gym facilities to try and achieve these goals, and you can follow my progress in this series of articles on Deeper Blue!