Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Safety In Your Freediving Training Sessions


Discussions about freediving safety in competitions are always evolving, but what about safety in on our own training sessions? We may not be going to the same depths as top freediving athletes, but deep and shallow water blackouts are a possibility for us as well. That is why safety is and should always be the number one concern for freedivers, but is often not taken seriously enough, especially at beginner levels. So how can we, as freedivers, keep our training sessions as safe as possible?

Ask For Safety

Whether you are feeling a little shy about needing safety for a certain depth, or overconfident and wanting to show off, please avoid refusing safety, and make sure to ask for it if you are not already offered it. Not everyone finds it necessary to have a safety diving down for you during a warm-up when the line is at 10 or 15m (32 to 49ft), but if you are going deeper than that, it is always safer if someone is meeting you at least at 10m (32ft), especially for beginners. This is especially important in the case of a shallow water blackout, which occurs due to the drastic drop in oxygen partial pressure in the lungs between 10m (32ft) and the surface.

This can also apply to advanced freedivers performing FRC (Functional Residual Capacity or “half-lung”) and RV (Residual Volume or “empty-lung”) dives. First of all, FRC and RV dives should only be performed by advanced divers, if performed at all. Second of all, if these dives are being performed, sometimes the freedivers think that they do not need safety since the dives are a lot shallower than their full-lung dives. This is a mistake; there is a much higher risk of squeezing, even at these “shallow” depths, due to the reduced air volume in the lungs. Ask for and provide safety for these types of dives, no matter the depth.

Always Wear a Lanyard

Freediver ascending with a lanyard.
Freediver ascending with a lanyard.

We love freediving lanyards so much, we wrote a whole article about them. But to summarize, lanyards are an essential piece of equipment for freedivers training depth, not to mention required when entering a competition. They keep you close to the dive line if there is a strong current, keep you attached to the line if a blackout occurs, and if you blackout too deep for your safety to rescue you, they can pull up the dive line with you attached, until you reach rescuable depth. Some certification courses recommend that lanyards should be worn in less than 10m (32ft) of visibility or in a strong current, but you can never go wrong wearing one all of the time, especially if you are diving with a nose-clip.

If You Feel Uncomfortable, Refuse To Safety

If you are training with freedivers who dive much deeper than you, it can be daunting to provide safety. For example, your PB (personal best) might be 25m (82ft), but someone diving to 60m (196ft) wants safety at 20m (65ft). It will already feel challenging enough just having to reach that depth, not to mention hanging there until the freediver meets you on the ascent. In this case, you should absolutely feel comfortable enough to let your partner know that you cannot confidently safety them. This should not feel embarrassing, as we all remember what it is like in the beginning stages of our freediving careers. No one is judging you, and even better, they will be thankful that you spoke up about being uncertain of your abilities rather than risk providing unreliable safety.

Safety Is a Team Effort

When you are diving with more than one other person on the buoy, make use of it; safety does not have to only be up to one other person. While you are all briefing before the session, verify that while the safety person dives, the third person is holding onto the rope and looking along the rope for any signals. If there is trouble, the safety can either signal with their arms or by shaking the rope, furthermore signaling the third person to either dive down and assist, or get on the buoy and start pulling up the line if the diver is deep. Organize signals and procedures beforehand, and train different scenarios. These competition safety procedures do not have to be just for competitions; make use of them in your own training sessions.

Also, if you start diving with a new buddy, verify that they have taken a certified freediving course and/or know how to properly rescue a freediver. Better yet, practice rescuing each other so that you have the utmost confidence in your buddy. Act out different scenarios in different conditions so that you are prepared for anything that could happen.

Never Freedive Alone

Two freedivers, man and woman, ascending from the depth
Two freedivers, man and woman, ascending from the depth

As much as it is discussed in the freediving community, there are still people who choose to freedive alone. Not even just diving recreationally along a reef, but training alone, whether in a pool or on a line. If you follow freediving news at all, you are aware that experienced, professional athletes have died training alone, and sadly it is not as uncommon as you may think. Blackouts themselves are not fatal, so long as there is someone there to bring you to the surface and turn you over. But if there is no one there to turn you over, who will save you? That is why the most important rule in freediving is to never freedive alone.

Improve Your Own Safety Skills

A good safety diver allows the primary freediver to feel much more relaxed and at ease, and focus on what needs to be focused on, rather than worrying about the safety’s capabilities. This is why it is vitally important to be the best safety diver possible: focus on the person diving, learn timing, take your safety dive as seriously as you take your own dive, hold the rope as the primary freediver descends, take a CPR/First Aid course, etc. The more seriously you take safety in freediving, the more respect you will earn from other freedivers, and you will never have a shortage of people wanting to train with you.

Final Thoughts

The concept of safety can be severely underestimated, especially in the case of people who have not taken a certified freediving course and are not aware of what exactly can go wrong. But in the end, it is always better to have proper safety and end up not needing it because the dive was successful, rather than gambling your life on performances in unsafe conditions.

Safety In Your Freediving Training Sessions 3
Kristina Zvaritch
Kristina, an AIDA, PADI, and Molchanovs W2 Freediving Instructor, discovered her love for the sea as a PADI Divemaster in Dahab, Egypt, where she shared the Blue Hole with freedivers and developed a serious passion for the single-breath sport. Nowadays, when she isn’t nose-deep in a novel on the beach, Kristina likes to train depth, and often pretends to be a mermaid when her buddy isn't looking.


  1. I need safety coming all the way down with me. Diving to 10-15 m is a real challenge for me. I get sad and depressed reading it should be a warmup dive. Contractions always start on my way down, turning 3/4 (roughly) of each dive into sheer torture.

    • Hi Jo! Please don’t compare yourself to anyone else, we all started the beginning of our freediving journeys at shallow depths and everyone learns at their own pace. I have some students that progress quickly and others that take their time, and I believe that the longer time you take, the better, because you become more aware of your body and of problems that come up. This will make you a safer, more self-aware freediver, which is the most important thing!

      As for contractions, it is quite uncommon to experience real contractions on the descent at the depths you are going to. I believe that these are “fake” contractions, as in they are not triggered by CO2 levels, but rather nervousness. It is an issue that affects freedivers at all levels (especially me!), and the only way to overcome this is to work on relaxation and confidence. The more comfortable and relaxed you feel, the better (and easier) your dives will be. Work on dry static, or static in water (with a buddy of course), and maybe the next time you get to train, try and go slower and with your eyes closed, with a coach that follows you the entire way down, and work only on your feelings.

      Don’t let this deter you from freediving! Many other freedivers, including myself, have had to overcome fears and obstacles in freediving, and as challenging as it is, it makes it so much more special and satisfying when you do overcome them! I wish you luck, Jo, stay positive!

  2. That’s my problem: I don’t have the opportunity to dive all that much (including at depth – if you consider 5+ m to be deep, which, for me, it is!). Once a year is already very much. So, at this pace I don’t even get the chance to get over my fears and frustrations about freediving…(and there is a lot of reasons why this is the most frustrating journey ever, I don’t even know where to begin.) Some people dona 2 day course and dive to 20-25m. Not me. Nothing could be more unnatural to me than this. I love it but I also hate it. It’s really tough… :-/

  3. jo. try find a CMAS one star course. its verry different than SSI wich focus mostly on depth. cmas one star focus more on other things that i think would be a much better place for u to start

  4. u have cmas 1-3 stars after that u have cmas apnea 1-3 stars and cmas apnea is about same as SSI 1-3. so for a beginner i would recomend cmas 1 and so on

  5. Jo, it is practically impossible for your contractions to start that early. It is probably another reflex that is bothering you, probably triggered by a certain fear. You should go slow and with someone competent that you trust completely. The CMAS idea from Christian sounds good.


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