Free Diving Gear Guide –
It could be said that almost everyone begins their journey to certified SCUBA diver as a “free diver”. As the oldest form of diving, free diving is diving on a single breath. Anyone who has been in a swimming pool and has stayed completely underwater for a few seconds has experienced this. You may have experienced it in a bathtub!
You may be surprised to find out that modern, competitive divers will push themselves to depths of 400 feet or more. These dives will last upwards of three minutes. The current records for men and women are over 500 feet in open water.
There is high degree of risk diving to these depths. It is estimated that 100 or more die each year. Shallow water blackouts are the biggest risk. These can occur during resurfacing after a very deep dive. Training on proper breathing techniques is very intensive for competitive free divers. Unlike scuba diving, the use of mono-fins with competitors is common (imagine a single whale tail for your feet).
There are four fundamental pieces of gear involved; the streamlined mask, snorkel, fins, and a skin or wet-suit (conditions dependent). Weights may be required depending upon the thickness of the wet-suit and the depth involved. It’s important to note that use of weights can prove a hazard to all but experienced.
Basic Free Diver Courses
Several certifying agencies conduct basic free-diving courses. These are taught as specialty courses and often advertised as “skin diving” or “snorkeling courses” byPADI,NAUI, SSI or others. These courses are typically one or two days in length and teach the basics of snorkeling and free diving technique using a mask, fins, and snorkel. These course are a good introduction to the water and should be considered prior to taking an open water course
Basic free diving fundamentals are taught to help snorkelers better experience the underwater environment. Safety and buddy procedures, the use of equipment, breathing and specific free diving techniques are the central skills taught. These course often take prospective free-divers to to depths of about 30 feet.
Traditionally free divers have competed for depth of dive and in some cases spearfishing. The sport has broadened to include additional competitive activities and retains a broad audience outside of the U.S. It is popular in many Mediterranean countries where many record holders have traditionally come from.
Any prospective or certified scuba diver can benefit from the techniques taught during a free-diving course. For a diver not fully comfortable in the water, free diving classes teach techniques that can increase a divers comfort and sense of safety.