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Why you should take a Freediving Course – Even as a Scuba Diver.

Annika Ziehen free diving in Koh Tao
Annika Ziehen free diving in Koh Tao

You know how to snorkel and/or scuba dive so you might be asking yourself why you should even take a freediving course. Fair enough, but I am here to shed some light on what freediving is all about and why taking a course might be a great idea even if you already know how to dive or snorkel!

The Ins & Outs of taking a freediving course

Cat in the sun in front of mono-fins

What is freediving?

Annika Ziehen freediving in Koh Tao

Simply said: freediving is the art of breath-hold diving. You take a breath and you dive. No tank, no BCD, you just take that breath and dive.
By now freediving also called apnea has become a proper sport with safety measures put into place, freediving courses to teach you the skills necessary, specialized freediving equipment to make it a bit easier, and competitions that measure static breath-hold, deepest dives, or longest dives.

Why you should do a freediving course

How long can you hold your breath? 10 seconds, a minute, or even two? However long it may be, holding your breath while diving is a lot more difficult while comfortably sitting on your couch. But it is also a skill you can train which is where a freediving course comes into play.
An instructor will show you how to improve your breath-holding time, show you how to use freediving equipment to get you down, and help you how to equalize quickly and efficiently on your way.

For me, freediving is a huge challenge, a struggle between pushing through my limits while trying to relax completely to conserve my air. Ultimately I think freediving is a great mix between a moving meditation and overcoming physical and environmental limitations.

I don’t think freediving can ever be a proper substitute for scuba diving but a free diving course will improve your snorkeling skills and makes for that excellent mental and physical challenge. It will also improve your breathing and add to your comfort level in the water. All in all, good enough reasons to give it a go!

Pre-requisities for an SSI or PADI freediver course

For both PADI and SSI, you have the choice to do a Basic Freediver course or a Freediver Course. The prerequisites are pretty similar though the Basic Freediver is similar to a Discover Scuba Experience. It will give you a glimpse into what apnea freediving is all about, teach you the basics, and take you to a pool or confined water to apply those basics. It is not a certification level yet but rather an experience to see if you like it.

PADI Basic Freediver

  • Minimum age is 12 years
  • Adequate swimmer and in good physical health

Knowledge development session & confined water session

PADI Freediver

  • Minimum age is 15 years
  • Adequate swimmer and in good physical health

Knowledge development session, confined water session & open water sessions to 10 m depths

SSI Basic Freediving

  • Minimum age is 10 years
  • Adequate swimmer and in good physical health

Knowledge development session & confined water session

SSI Freediving Level 1

  • Minimum age is 10 years
  • Adequate swimmer and in good physical health

Knowledge development session, confined water session & open water sessions to 20 m depths

What is part of a freediving course?

Group of freedivers equalizing

In any given freediving course you will learn the basics about diving on a single breath and how our bodies function under pressure and in cold water.
Your instructor will teach you different breath-holding and equalizing techniques. Especially the latter is something many new free divers struggle with. Unlike scuba diving, you can’t really take your time with equalizing as you are using momentum to get down when free diving and you also do it head first which can make it more difficult. One of those methods is the Frenzel equalization – you can check out this awesome video by the professional freediver Adam Stern if you want to practice in your own time.

Once you have mastered those basics you will practice both static and dynamic breath-hold. For the dynamic breath-hold, you will usually dive on the surface with your head submerged while the static one can be done anywhere – all you got to do is hold your breath.

Afterward, it is on to the open water sessions where you will learn free immersion by just pulling yourself down a line as well as constant weight freediving when you will use your fins to propel yourself down (and up). Open water sessions are usually done with a buoy and a line, either using it to pull yourself or as a visual reference. You will also learn buddy procedures because just like scuba diving you shouldn’t be free diving on your own.

Training like this will give you the tools to enjoy the underwater world on some fun freedives afterward – just you and your single breath, no bulky scuba equipment needed.

Freediving equipment

When you do a freediving course your instructor will also introduce you to some special freediving equipment that is a little bit different from regular scuba equipment. At the minimum, you will need a mask, a snorkel, and fins. Depending on where you do your course and your physique you will also wear a wetsuit and a weight belt.
Freediving masks are usually small-volume masks which means you need less of your precious one-breath air to equalize them at depth. Freediving fins are usually made from plastic, fiberglass, or carbon fiber which makes them a bit stiffer than most scuba fins. They also tend to be longer. This means they displace more water and thanks to the material are more powerful when kicking – you will use less energy (important when diving on a single breath).
And yes, even if you are not underwater for as long as you would be when scuba diving, chances are you might get cold so a wetsuit or some sort of exposure suit is a good idea. This is also important when you are freediving at a shallower depth and want to avoid sun damage.
Why do I need weights when freediving? Even if you are only wearing a rashguard chances are you might be pretty buoyant already – I know I am! With that, you might need some weights to get you down and your instructor will help you to find the correct amount.

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