Freediving comes from the Greek word apnea dive. The word apnea means without air. It explains how basically this sport works. You will hold your breath until you resurface back. Basically, when you free dive you will solely rely on the capacity of your lungs because no breathing equipment is used. Then, you will try to dive as deep as you can before you need to go to the surface to catch your breath. A challenging sport that requires a serious amount of practice and dedication.
Despite how serious and challenging freediving is, it is a sport that comes with many benefits. The experience you will get when you are underwater is worth all the practice you need to do. If you are interested in trying it out, you can start by knowing the next 15 facts about freediving. The knowledge you need before you decide on trying freediving out.
1. First Underwater Sport
Among all the underwater sports that exist today, freediving is the first one. Starting back during ancient times, people dive to find food and admire the underwater garden. However, due to the development of technology, the world has started to shift its attention from freediving.
Around the 17th century, scientists have found that people could dive 50 meters deep and stay there up to 20 minutes in one breath. Today, freediving has slowly regained the world’s attention.
2. Freediving Gives You Superpower
When we are freediving, our body experiences a tremendous change in pressure in a relatively short amount of time. It is fascinating how human beings with the help from the underwater surroundings could sustain the increase in pressure as they dive deeper and deeper. When you go about 100 feet deep, the pressure that you experience increases by four times. This amount of pressure will injure you when you experience it on land. Feels like you have some superpower to withstand all the extra pressure.
3. More Than Just a Sport
You might consider freediving as one of the many underwater sports. However, you can see around the world that it is more than just a recreational or competitive sport. For example in South Korea’s famous Jeju Island, there existed what we call haenyeo, or woman of the sea. They have been doing freediving as their means to collect shellfish for food. It is a regular sight to see grandmothers, women aged 50 or older, jumping into the sea and diving. Since the Korean War, they have been doing so to raise their family.
People have started to take interest in them, including tourists, writers, and filmmakers. However, they believe that they are bound to be one with the sea and to take care of the sea the way the sea has taken good care of them with food. These haenyeo devoted their life to diving and protecting the sea. They are the ones that will inform the world when the sea is starting to get sick and require some serious help.
4. Starting with a Wager
Even though freediving is an ancient sport, only in 1949 freediving started to regain popularity. It all started with Raimondo Bucher, a Hungarian-born Italian air force captain who dove 30 meters deep for a wager. Scientists thought that he would die from the overwhelming pressure, but he returned to the surface with no scratch at all. Also, Bob Croft, a US Navy diving instructor, spent 25 hours a week in a 30 meter deep tank teaching the navy submariners on how to escape during a submarine attack. He has also made some diving records of his own.
5. Your Heart Beats Slower Underwater
When you are diving, your heart will naturally beat slower. It is a way for your body to preserve its oxygen level. Since you are breathing in less oxygen when you dive, there is an increase in peripheral resistance. This is so the blood distributes oxygen mainly to the brain while limiting its flow to other non-essential muscles.
This is what scientists call the dive reflex. Overall, it is a complicated process, but its main goal is to preserve life through physiological adaptation to the current situation. Studies have shown that your heartbeat lowers by three times when you dive. It could go as low as 10 beats per minute which is lower than a coma patient.
6. The Deepest Man On Earth
The one who holds the title as “the deepest man on earth” is Herbert Nitsch. He holds the title for freediving the deepest at 214 meters in 2007. He has been breaking records for three years constitutively starting from the year 2005 when he freedive for 172 meters deep. Despite breaking the world record, after this exact freedive he experienced nitrogen narcosis that caused him to fall asleep temporarily. Then, as he was trying to recompress with pure oxygen, it was already too late and he ended up with severe Type 2 decompression sickness.
He came comatose and had multiple strokes in his cerebellum and temporal lobe. For a period of time, he was in vegetative state in a wheelchair for some months. Fortunately with a bold decision to go out of the hospital and take care of his own healing, he was able to freedive again in summer 2014. Surprisingly, he feels normal when he is underwater, but still struggles with balance and coordination when he is on land.
7. Just Don’t Freedive Alone
Even though freediving is a one person activity, it is recommended to have a dive buddy with you. Freediving requires not only your physical strength, but also your mental strength. When you have a friend with you, there is a sense of reassurance in you that there is this other person who can observe you and pick up the things that might harm you.
In cases where you have a blackout, there is this other person that would help you. Unlike other divings, no breathing equipment is used in freediving. Thus, you can’t rely on equipment for your safety and all you have is your dive buddy to rely on.
8. Please Don’t Fly After Freedive
After successfully trying a freedive on your vacation, you might want to spare at least 12-24 hours before you fly back in. When you go for freediving, the longer and deeper you dive means that more nitrogen is absorbed into your blood. As you ascend to the surface, the nitrogen will turn into gas bubbles due to the decrease in pressure. Having gas bubbles inside your body is dangerous, that is why decompression needs to be done slowly.
You need to slowly ascend to the surface to allow the nitrogen to go back out through your lungs instead of turning into gas bubbles. However, flying with the plane works the same way as you ascend quickly which will be dangerous. This is why you need to stay on land for a sufficient amount of time to let all the nitrogen out of your body before you go on a plane.
9. Freediving Can Burn More Calories
Even if you are doing freediving for leisure or recreational purposes, it still requires a huge amount of energy. The energy is used particularly to keep your body warm. Scientists found that freediving burns more calories per minute than any other activity.
On average, a 175 pound freediver burns 20 calories per minute which adds up to 1200 calories burned every hour. Freedivers usually spend up to seven hours daily in the water. Thus, they need to make sure they eat enough to supply them with such a big amount of energy.
10. Coffee is Freedivers Number One Enemy
In order to prepare your body for freediving, having the proper diet is important. You need to focus on eating red meat, dark poultry meat, and leafy vegetables for vegetarians. This food is high in iron which is the mineral that will carry the oxygen you need. Carbohydrate is also a must since you will be burning tons of calories and it will help restore your tired muscles after the dive. Don’t forget to drink water.
When you are well hydrated your muscles will work properly and your ears will not get sticky which helps with equalization. On the other hand, you need to stay away from alcohol, coffee, and dairy for the time being. Not drinking alcohol will let your muscles work better. Giving up on dairy will lessen the mucous production which will make equalization harder. Lastly, coffee is known to be diuretic and increases the heartbeat. This is why you need to avoid coffee at all costs because you need to stay hydrated and calm down in order to freedive safely.
11. The Longest Diving Record
Just recently, on 27 March 2021, a world record was made. Budimir Šobat from Croatia at the age of 56 years old broke the record of the longest dive in one breath at 24 minutes 37.36 seconds. He has been preparing himself for years to be able to reach this record. His motivation to break the record is his own daughter who has autism.
By breaking the record, he will get the platform and media attention in order for him to share about autism awareness. He only started freediving at the age of 48. It is a remarkable achievement that shows the result of his strong determination and persistence. His record has made it to the Guinness book of records.
12. Citizen of The Underwater World
Freediving is probably the only underwater sport that will allow you to get close to the fishes. If your dream is to play with fishes under the sea just like Ariel the mermaid, you should consider doing freediving. Since freediving is a quiet sport, you won’t be disturbing the fishes. When you freedive, get ready to dive with whales or dolphins. Only in freediving, you will be able to freely roam around with the underwater creatures as if you are part of it all.
13. Freediving Helps You with Stress
Unlike other sports, you cannot freedive when you are high in adrenaline. Instead of increasing your adrenaline, you need to be in a relaxed state to be able to dive deep and safely. High heart rate means shallow diving. If you are dealing with too much stress and you find it hard to relax, freediving will be a great sport for you. When you learn to freedive, you will also be learning how to relax as if you are falling asleep. As you train yourself for freediving, you are actually teaching yourself on how to relax.
14. Help You to Focus and Concentrate
Living in the fast paced world today makes it hard for us to focus and be present. With social media and all, our mind is taking too much information at the same time. If this is you, you can consider signing up for a freediving lesson.
Freediving would help you practice on how to focus and concentrate on the present moment. When you are freediving, it is required of you to fully concentrate and be aware of your own body. This is why some people call freediving an extreme meditation. This also shows how determined a person needs to be if they want to master freediving.
15. Disappearance Occur
Despite how beneficial freediving is, it is still a dangerous sport. Even if you are one of the world’ greatest divers just like Natalia Molchanova, you might end up not resurfacing just like her. She disappeared during a dive in Spain when she was teaching a diving class. No one knows the exact reason why this happened.
However, some suggest that she might get unconscious underwater and she has no spotters with her at that time since she is the only experienced diver in the group. Thus, it is important to always be alert and never underestimate each of your dives. Even though you have been diving for years, you still need to make sure you have a dive buddy with you in case things go wrong. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
After hearing all of the 15 facts about freediving, are you still up to the challenge? Remember to always take every dive seriously.
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