Scuba diving Vs Freediving / Apnea?
One day in the Philippines…
Me: “I was freediving this morning”
Her: “What, freediving? Wait a minute, how do they make money if you dive for free??”
Me: “Actually they do make money! Freedive is diving down on a single breath, like free of tank, free of moves”
Her: “Wouaaaa that’s super crazy, so you are like a wonder woman like mermaid born? Puff, me I can’t even hold my breath for more than 1 minute”
Me: “Well… I could lie to you about my exclusive super powers but I’m just a regular human being, and guess what, we, human, all have these super powers!”
And that’s when my favorite part of talking about freediving starts…
Let’s back up a little: my name is Marine, I have been backpacking in Asia since January 2015, exploring new corners of the world, of myself, in search for new knowledge, challenges, spiritual and physical experiences. Like many water sport and nature lovers, traveling the world, I took a scuba diving course to intimately discover the underwater world in warm tropical waters. Yeah, it’s not in the cold north of France that I will experience diving in tropical waters! Challenging at first with buoyancy and the decompression stop, scuba diving is mainly entertaining. Scuba diving is an opportunity to experience amazing moments of being able to observe fish and corals. Not to mention the beers you share after the dive, the classic “oh did you see that fish under that rock,” or “what’s the name of that fish?!” I love being around all the fish and underwater creatures (except for the dangerous ones!), observing their diversity, interactions and admiring their colors surrounded by the multiple corals. I mean, what a wonderful world, right? Overall scuba diving is a great experience I have loved so far… until I became hooked on freediving! Don’t get me wrong, scuba is still a great recreational activity, but freediving gives me a bigger boost of endorphins while widening my possibilities for snorkeling.
I had heard about freediving / apnea last year in Thailand as my travel buddy (who has a big rib cage!) did a 2 days freediving course in Kho Tao. At the time, I was happily busy doing my advanced scuba diving, and thought it was something I could never do physically. A year later, as I traveled the Philippines, I made new friends who tickled my open mind in search of new experience. “Come with us, we are going to do our freediver Level 1”.
So I researched about it during the next couple of days and tried to put the cost of the course into my adventurous perspective, I decided to go along with my new friends, let’s sea! I realize now I had opened a door into a new world. And not just the underwater world…but also my world within. Freediving fulfills my love for the ocean, my quest for meditative state, weightlessness and calmness (Vs the heavy-loud scuba gears!). Everyday it teaches me something new about our amazing and complex body and to expand the power of my mind.
Why would you learn to freedive?
Think about the next time you snorkel with your mates, you will be able to dive down to take a closer look at the fish, corals, feel a part of it, and trust me, the underwater population much more prefer the peaceful and silent approach of a freediver rather than the Darth Vader approach of a scuba diver! Of course you won’t be able to stay as long as the scuba divers, but you will be able to descent and ascent as many times as you want during a session, free of your moves, no safety stop and the danger that goes with inhaling gas underwater. After all, I have experienced my first shark and turtle while snorkeling last year, and seen many small and big fish and coral gardens between 0 to 15m below the surface!
You also freedive because it extends your mind’s power!
Like in scuba diving, you will start with a beginner apnea training course to be able to safely freedive. Certifications vary from one to another but overall, imagine that by just taking your level 1, you will learn to dive between 10 to 20 meters within 2/3 days! You will go through understanding the famous urge to breathe we all have when we hold our breathe in the water and learning to overcome it by appreciating our amazing physical powers called the mammalian reflex!
You will become more aware of your mind’s power and how it reacts to stress when in survival mode (aka when we don’t breath). In fact, holding our breath for a little longer than what feels “normal” and overcoming the contractions which arise (that nasty feeling in your diaphragm) isn’t dangerous at all. As you learn relaxation technique and safety procedures, practice in pool and open water, try out different freediving disciplines, you will also end up your training being able to hold your breath while static for 2 minutes. Then, as you keep practicing, you will push the limit of your “urge to breathe”, be able to go deeper, longer and perform the art of the well-being, feel like a mermaid!
That’s why this sport is so unique! It’s not so much about the physical exercises, but more about knowing our body, mastering the psychological effects and strengthening our mind’s ability to live the moment in peace, by pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone. We can all achieve great things by training and discipline. Bear in mind, freedive is a safe sport as long as you don’t go over your limit. Anything can be extreme if you stop being in control, which is the opposite of freediving. So unless you have serious ears trouble, you can do it too!
“The scuba diver dives to look around. The freediver dives to look inside.” Umberto Pelizzari, world champion freediver.
For the one who have fears of depth, drowning, or experienced trauma, it is a very good way to overcome it. You learn to accept and observe your fear vs. fighting it away. You simply realize the water is just the element and it is just your mind playing tricks on you. I was also feeling scared when I first started to freedive. There was no way I wanted to know how deep the ocean was during my first open ocean training, but I quickly came to realize I was not entering a cage in which I would suffocate but instead, I was entering a new sensation of freedom. And now, as I dive down 35 meters along the rope with no fins (my favorite one!), as I pull myself down and up, I am flying, smoothly sliding, blissfully closing my eyes, reopening my eyes, not thinking about anything but the joy of gliding in this immense amount of water brushing my face…
Why freediving and yoga go very well together?
Yoga is an ancient science and philosophy that encourages the harmony of the Body, Mind and Soul. Through personal observances, breathing exercises, body postures, control of the senses, inner awareness, meditation, you learn to acknowledge the present, find inner peace and live the now happier. Great, right? Every doctor should prescribe yoga classes! To train our body and mind to be more flexible in the water, nothing better than yoga, and vice versa!
In fact, doing a combined yoga and freedive retreat (with Kurma Freedive in Camiguin island, Philippines), has allowed me to re-energize after a long travel, digest all these moments, empower myself, learn to better let it go, be more grounded and find inspiration within me. The spirit of freediving and this amazing, quiet yet full of stuff to do, volcanic island has really made my experience mind-blowing. I love to remember what my instructor Valerie told me as I m getting ready for my first freedive session in Camiguin, and felt stuck not being able to go deeper than 15m, she gave me a simple “enjoy”… As I smile in my snorkel, I realized it’s not about the number you reach, but about the pleasure you experience on the way, a reminder along that rope that happiness is a journey, not a destination… Then diving deeper, longer become an expansion of that happy journey.
“Freediving is about silence…the silence that comes within” Jacques Mayol