When I started freediving 10 years ago, freediving was an absolute niche in the diving industry. Today, freediving is the hot thing and arguably the fastest growing watersport worldwide. So, what happened, how could freediving explode like that, and why now?
As a psychologist and consultant I could see a trend in the general public towards simplicity. Life in general got so complicated that we are looking for simple things to compensate for that. Mediation? Sit down and watch your thoughts. Yoga? Roll out a mat and start. Bouldering? Just you and the route to climb. Freediving? A mask a snorkel and a set of fins and off you go! Simple – but none of this is actually easy!
The simplicity comes in when you look at how little gear is needed for any of these activities. The challenge is not in the gear, it is in yourself: How you do these things. It is an inner process, an inner exploration – just you and the environment. No excuses.
Freediving will teach you also another lesson: As a learning freediver you build up complete responsibility for yourself first, but secondly also for your freedive buddy. The team experience, to know someone is there who has got your back, who knows exactly what to do if you need him forges the ability to trust – first in yourself and even more so in someone else.
There is no magic breathing technique or superhuman gene-combination that makes you a freediver. Surprisingly to many, the basic techniques, which we use in freediving, are very general: The first thing you will learn in a freedive course is a relaxation technique to gain self-awareness of your body and your mind. Being able to consciously relax physically and focus mentally is what brings our level of activity down which allows us to suspend breathing for a much longer time than ever expected. 2 minutes of breath hold on the first day is very common, and, depending on someone’s ability to stay undistracted, can easily reach the 4 minute-mark within a few repetition.
The only safe way to achieve this is: Pure Relaxation.
Now, being able to consciously relax is of course a very powerful tool, which you can access anytime and apply in almost any situation. As a scuba diver, guess what will happen to your air consumption if you do a whole dive focusing on letting go any unneeded tension in all your muscles?
Before I became a freediver I was an unpopular 100kg athletic scuba diver that went through his tank in a time frame short enough to drive every dive buddy mad. And, frankly, I didn’t enjoy scuba diving that much at that time. Roughly ten years ago I started freediving on a regular basis and boy! did it change my experience: Not only did I all of a sudden understand the concept of “letting the water carry me”, but also my air consumption went down to the same level as my 45kg female scuba instructor friend. First I was shocked, then proud and then happy: I finally discovered the beauty of scuba diving - through freediving!
Read Part 2 on this Freediving series!
Images © Luca Vaime (two dive shots), Nestori Virtanen (article feature shot) posted with permission 2018.