The exhilaration of Free Diving

It is extraordinary how the sport of Free Diving has evolved…

Not so long ago it was considered a feat of all feats to dive to 30m without the aid of suplemented air. Now, well… now, you just have to look at free divers like William Trubridge to see how far this extreme sport has come.

William Trubridge new world record 92m CNF

At 11:50am on the 19th April, 2010 in Dean’s Blue Hole, Long Island, Bahamas New Zealander William Trubridge became the first man to pass the barrier of 300 feet (92 meters) freediving completely unassisted – a discipline called “constant weight no fins.”  The dive time was 3:45. Constant Weight No Fins is the purest measure of human aquatic potential, and athletically the most demanding of the freediving disciplines.

He completed this extraodinary achievement with another dive, this time  with fin and constant weight, and achieved another incredible dive – 116 m in 4 minutes and 9 seconds, but Herbert Nitsch set the record in this discipline with a staggering 124 m in 4 minutes and 10 seconds.

“They beckon me beyond my means
cold dark vacant pressure
forever night, endless dreams”
William Trubridge

William Trubridge learnt to swim at the age of 18 months, and was freediving to 15m by the age of 8, however he did not begin serious training for the sport until 2003. In 2004 he became the first non-Italian instructor at Umberto Pelizzari’s prestigious Apnea Academy.

Dean’s Blue Hole is the deepest blue hole in the world, at 202 meters (663 feet). You can find it in a bay west of Clarence Town on Long Island, Bahamas.

Dean's Blue Hole

That’s the more extreme side of freediving and it is amazing how it continues to break all its own records as the divers, a mere handful at competiton standard, push themselves to the very limit of their abilities.

However, freediving is not only a sport for these supreme athletes. It is fast becoming the thing to do if you are in search of the purity of eco-bonding. The intensity of freediving fulfills all your subliminal wishes. It’s got something to do with the feeling of freedom and weightlessness…

Of course Free Diving is not a new sport… Archaeologists say that  records show that people have been earning their living from freediving since the 5th century BCE. The first nation which was famous for it was the Haenyeo in Korea. They collected shells and sponges to sell to others. The Ama Divers from Japan began to collect pearls 2000 years ago. Spear fishering around the Mediterranean Sea was also important in the historical background of free diving or apnea.

The art to freediving is to remain relaxed. Hard, you might think, as your push your way to the bottom some 50 feet down, but not impossible if you have had the right training. And then… when you’re there… well, then, you will find that the rigouress training was well worth it as you move along the bottom  effortlessly and free, watching the antics of cavorting fish among the bright hues of sponges, anenomies, and complex coral colonies.

You don’t even have the rasp and roar of oxygen in your ears as you marvel at the beauty of this silent underwater world.

You will find that you can glide along at close to twice the speed you could have traveled with scuba gear on, but with virtually no exertion. Your fins will be longer, nearly twice as long as those for scuba or you can use a monofin. Either will give you huge thrust with very little muscular contraction. You will be like a ghost moving through the water. Silent and efficient.

Sara Campbell

Sara Campbell

Of course you can’t stay down there for long. We are, after all, not meant to be able to emulate fish.

As your breath wears out you kick back to the surface with slow relaxed movements and my goodness do you enjoy that first lungful of air. But the amazing thing is that your whole body ‘zings’ with exhilaration from the exercise. You feel rejuvenated, re-energised and ready for what the world will throw at you next.

You will not be able to achieve any of this without proper training. We are not designed to survive underwater, we do not have gills (no!!!)  and so it goes without saying that there are many hidden dangers to freediving. BUT with proper training, well then, the world’s your oyster….

Oh dear, that was a terrible pun.

It is worth repeating that if you train properly and never dive alone (a cardinal rule in free diving) it is an underwater sport that is less dangerous than scuba diving.

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