Why Freedive by Ted Harty

Why Freedive by Ted Harty

In this article I will explain why any water person should consider freediving. I will first explain how I “became” a freediver.

Freediving is the most natural way to be under the water.  It requires only a mask, fins, and a snorkel.

I remember back when I was a dive instructor working on a dive boat. I saw a bunch of freedivers come out on the boat. They had big fins, camo suits, and tiny masks. I remember thinking, “What the heck are these bozos doing on my dive trip?”

Curiously I watched on and was astonished at how long they were cruising around on the shallow reef. So on my next trip, once I had put all the Scuba divers in the water, I donned my mask, fins and snorkel and dove down to twenty-five feet. I got there and thought, “Wow this is cool!” Fifteen seconds later my lungs starting burning and I flew to the surface. I quickly came to the following conclusion, freediving is stupid! Just put a tank on and stay down for an hour.

Students enjoying a day on the water during a freediving course. Author third from left.

Students enjoying a day on the water during a freediving course. Author third from left.

While working on a busy dive boat you just can’t escape freediving. Customers are always dropping masks, weight belts, sunglasses etc. It’s just easier to freedive down to twenty feet to get them than put on the cumbersome scuba gear. Then it becomes no big deal to freedive down to thirty feet, then forty feet.  At that point I could freedive down to forty feet to get customers’ lost gear. Back on the boat the customers would be amazed I could do such a feat with out a tank. I of course responded by puffing out my chest and saying, “Well yeah, I’m a freediver.”  Little did I know! That’s how I became a freediver I guess.

I took my first freediving class in 2008 and it ruined everything. After the course on my days off I didn’t want to go scuba diving, I wanted to go freediving, spearfishing, or just go train. I became obsessed with freediving which is how I seem to approach everything.

In 2009 I became an instructor for Performance Freediving International (PFI).  Months later I went to my first freediving competition. I went from roughly a ninety foot freediver to 177 foot freediver in three weeks! I was shocked, and understand this from a 220-230 pound, over weight, out of shape scuba instructor. If I can freedive, you can freedive.

The questions I get all the time from the general public is, “What is freediving?” Once they understand what it is they ask, “Why?”

Freediving is the most natural way to be under the water.  It requires only a mask, fins, and a snorkel. What initially draws many people to freediving is the freedom from all the cumbersome gear and tanks associated with scuba diving. Marine life that would normally be skittish around a noisy scuba diver, will allow you to approach much closer.

Some new freedivers become interested in the sport because of spearfishing.  If you are interested in learning to spearfish, I would highly advise you get good at  freediving first then add weapons to the equation.

There are several common misconceptions about freediving. I often hear people say, “Yes freediving looks cool, but I can’t do it becauseI’m too old, I’m too out of shape, I can’t equalize my ears while freediving, or I can’t hold my breath more than 30 seconds.”  You don’t need to be an elite athlete to enjoy the sport of freediving, if so I’d be out of business.

I regularly have people in my freediving program that have zero freediving experience. They are snorkelers or scuba divers and can hold their breath for thirty to forty-five  seconds. Yet after my three day course these same students can hold their breath for two to three and a half minutes and perform sixty foot freedives. Freediving is a sport where your performance is largely determined by your technique. Learning proper technique will go a long way to getting you where you want to be.  If you are comfortable being in the ocean you can freedive.

Students practice underwater rescue scenarios during a freediving course.

Students practice underwater rescue scenarios during a freediving course.

Freediving has risks associated with the sport just like scuba diving. The problem is you can’t go scuba diving until you take a scuba course, yet anyone can go freediving. This results in most freedivers not fully understanding the risks associated with the sport. They lack a thorough understanding of the procedures and protocols to enjoy the sport safely.

When freediving always dive in a buddy team, one up one down. When your buddy surfaces be close enough to grab them and watch him or her for no less than thirty seconds.

Ted Harty is the founder of Immersion Freediving, 280ft freediver, USA Freediving record holder, and Captain of the 2012 USA Freediving team, and runs freediving courses year round in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

All commentary and opinions in this post are exclusively of the author.  They do not reflect the opinions of the USFA or any other associated organizations or people mentioned.

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