We have all thought what it would be like to swim endlessly underwater on a single breath.
Well, we can, to an extent by learning to freedive.
“Freediving is the most liberating and calming way to explore the underwater world.”
Free from equipment
With Freediving you can be as free as any other creature in the sea. All you need is a pair of fins, a snorkel, a mask and a qualified buddy.
Free from breath
Freediving literally takes your breath away. Because you are quiet, you can hear the silence of the sea making it easier to connect with its serenity.
To fully appreciate your underwater experience you need to be still inside. This stillness will liberate and exhilarate you.
Freediving is a whole new way to explore the underwater world and yourself.
History of Freediving
The writer and evolutionary theorist Elaine Morgan has hypothesised that humans began freediving as part of the transition we once made between the trees and the land. She argues that we went through a semi aquatic phase in our evolutionary development.
Certainly freediving has been around since the dawn of civilisation in ancient Babylon, Egypt, Greece and the Minoan civilisations of Crete, where it was used for military as well as commercial purposes.
Freediving has been practiced by sponge fisherman in Greece for centuries but their amazing abilities were not widely known. The method used was to slide down an inclined plank from a boat into the sea, clinging firmly to a large, flat stone plummeting vertically, clearing the ears against a primitive nose-clip while trying to judge the approach of the bottom, a difficult task with no mask. The flat rock was used as a crude hydroplane, angled upwards at the end of the descent to avoid a crash into the bottom. Depths often exceeded 20m where the task was to locate and cut free as many sponges as possible before having to return to the surface to breathe. As no fins were worn, divers were pulled to the surface after signalling by tugging on a line secured to the wrist. Gradually as stocks became depleted, divers took to using surface supplied diving equipment to exploit the sponge resources in depths over 60m.
In more recent times, a celebrated example of freediving concerns the case of Haggi Statti. In June 1911 the ‘Regina Margherita’, the flagship of the Italian Navy was caught in a terrible storm in Pigadia Bay, Karpathos. It dragged anchor and the chain snapped, leaving the precious anchor lying in 77 metres of water. After the death of the second in command trying to retrieve it, along came Yorgos Haggi Statti, a Greek sponge fisherman. Small, half deaf through perforated eardrums and weak from pulmonary emphysema he told the Navy they would get their anchor back for five pounds and the permission to fish with dynamite. The ship’s doctor pronounced him unfit to dive but he tied rocks to his feet and jumped in the water, locating the anchor on his fourth dive and retrieving it shortly afterwards with dives of over three minutes duration. He was rewarded with a gold medal and the right to travel free for life on any Italian ship of his choice.
Other famous freedivers include the Hee-Nyo of Korea and Ama divers of Japan who are mainly women. People have dived for seafood off the Japanese islands and coast of south Korea for thousands of years, but it isn’t widely known that the practice of professional breathold diving still exist in these areas today. The reasons for diving are little changed. Divers search for seaweed, various shellfish, lobster, sea urchins, octopus and, in certain waters, pearls, which occasionally were a nice bonus inside the oysters caught for food.
Dives are still made using methods that have changed little over the past 1500 years. The main modifications in diving equipment have occurred in the last 100 years with the use of masks, then, perhaps 40 years ago (depending on location), fins. With the introduction of fins, divers gained the swimming power to support more drag in the water, so they could also withstand the additional weight of clothing to provide warmth.
Two methods are used. The first is diving without any aids, called cachido, the other technique is known as funado and makes use of a weight.
The cachido dives from a drifting platform to depths between 2 and 10 meters. The divers takes a couple of deep breaths, dives to the desired depth and stays 15 seconds at the bottom to collect shellfish. The whole dive last 30 seconds and after another 30 seconds of rest, she makes her next dive. This dive pattern last for about two hours a day.
The funado dives off a boat past 20 meters depth. A weight of 15 kilo’s is used to pull the diver down to the desired depth. The whole dive last for one minute and the diver stays for about 30 seconds at the bottom. The diver, and the weight is pulled up to the surface at the end of the dive by an assistant. Although this dive pattern is more economical as the dives of the Cachido, the same amount of harvesting can be done for a longer period, the advantage is compensated by the need of an assistant.
Freediving became a sport with the rivalry between three great divers, Bob Croft, Enzo Mayorca and Jacques Mayol in the 1950s and 1960s. It was believed that if a diver went below 35 metres they would die. Then when Mayorca passed 50 metres the phenomenon of ‘blood shift’ was discovered.
Great leaps have been made since in the science and physiology of freediving and have led to the depths of over 170 metres being reached in the discipline of No-Limits.
In 1995 AIDA was formed as a governing body for freediving and has since organised competitions for freedivers all over the world.
People are attracted to freediving for the grace and ease with which freedivers move through the aquatic world. It is a sport that is a personal journey for each diver that allows him or her to redefine what they believed possible about themselves.