Monday, July 22, 2024
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The Sweeter Science of Freediving

Tec Clark, Fort Lauderdale native and longtime pioneer of freediving’s renaissance generation, reports from an historic gathering of the tribes:

The Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS) and Divers Alert Network (DAN) has co-hosted a symposium (June 20-21) on breath-hold diving in Orlando, Florida, as a pre-course to the UHMS’ Annual Scientific Meeting.

The previous breath-hold diving medical symposium was conducted over twenty years ago.

The presenters of this epic event were the world’s leading authorities on breath-hold diving research, and elite freediving athletes: Dr. Frank Butler, Dr. Christopher Dueker, Karl Huggins, Ph.D., Mr. Kirk Krack, Dr. Peter Lindholm, Dr. Claes Lundgren, Dr. Terry Maas, Dr. Ralph Potkin, Dr. Neal Pollock, Dr. Erika Schagatay, Ms. Tanya Streeter,  and Dr. Robert Wong.

Topics included DCS/DCI, laryngospasm, narcosis, spleen contraction, pulmonary edema, shallow water blackout, DAN breath-hold incident database, and brain/neurological phenomena.  USAA member and world record holder Tanya Streeter kicked off the symposium with her riveting account of dealing with apparent nitrogen narcosis at record depths.  Her presentation left many pondering the factors contributing to narcosis during breath-hold dives, and continued as a topic of great debate the following day.

One presentation, however, stole the show. The Performance Freediving team ( Kirk Krack, Mandy-Rae Cruickshank, Martin Stepanek) led off on the second day of the symposium.  Their lecture on “Safety Techniques and Problem Management For Recreational & Competitive Freediving” was perhaps the most thought-provoking and most celebrated presentation of them all. Most of the presenters reported on their research – mainly in controlled lab settings with small samples.  Kirk, in contrast, was able to present “real-world” applications developed over more than 1,500 Performance Freediving students.

There was a virtual whirlwind of theories and hypotheses flying around the symposium floor,  but each and every researcher and physiologist in the room was leaning forward, glued to Kirk’s video images of loss of motor control (LMC) and blackout in contexts of constant weight and static apnea underwater and at the surface.  Kirk’s articulate presentation brought home many points to an audience that was eager to see the real people (non-elite freedivers) in day-to-day applications of freediving techniques and in proglem management, and no other presentation had as many questions asked and comments made afterwards. Many attendees have dedicated their lives to finding out the why and how of freedivers doing very well – and why they occasionally perish trying – Team PFI made it very clear that a hypoxic episode like LMC or blackout can’t be predicted and that THE most important aspect of breath-hold diving is in the proper safety techniques associated with direct supervision of ANY freediver regardless of abilities.

In his closing speech Dr. Claes Lundgren, one of world’s most respected authorities on breath-hold diving research, publicly thanked Team PFI for an outstanding presentation and their commitment “…to doing things right”. It was a triumphant moment for Team PFI as accolades were showered by the world’s top breath-hold diving physiologists on our own Kirk, Martin and Mandy-Rae.

The proceedings of the Breath-Hold Diving Symposium in transcript format will be available in the near future through DAN.  We’ll you know as soon as it’s available.  Although PFI has gained status from celebrity trainings and major media pieces, I believe no higher acclaim can be given than to have been as well received and acclaimed by this caliber of industry expert.  Congratulations Team PFI on a job well done!

And thanks to you, Tec, for another job well done. Fine reporting. About time the scientific community caught up with us.- Paul

Paul Kotik
Paul Kotik
Paul Kotik has been a Staff Writer and Freediving Editor for He lives in Florida, USA with his family.