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Freediving Death...

Gillz

New Member
Oct 16, 2006
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#1
Hey evevryone...
Im 15 and new to freediving and I was just curious, what are the chances of death or having a blackout when freediving? Is it a common occurance? What can be done to prevent it?

Gillz
 

efattah

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Mar 2, 2001
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#2
If you are new to the sport, and practice or dive alone, then there is an extremely high chance of death.

Take a course, read as much of deeperblue's old threads, and always, always practice and dive with someone else, preferably someone more knowledgeable than you. It is not enough for your buddy to 'be around' in the area while you practice or dive, but they must be watching you the entire time you are under.
 

Bill McIntyre

San Clemente, CA
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#4
I don't know percentages, but over the 10 years I've been on the Freedivelist, we have lost a lot of people, including my best dive buddy.

It is a very dangerous sport. Just a week ago a very talented 20-year-old diver was lost at San Clemente Island here in Southern California. Everyone said how deep he dove and how he was always the last one out of the water, but he was found on his back on the bottom at 50 feet, which was well within his capabilities.

Be very careful and work your way into the sport. Never try to compete with anyone else or measure up to his performance.

Edit- sorry, sometimes I forget that many people on this board are pure freedivers and don't molest fish. While my advice is generally applicable to pure freediving, my experience is in freedive spearfishing, and that is what I was talking about in the above reply.
 
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deep thinker

Let the good times roll
Jan 19, 2006
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#5
This is also aplicable to spearfishing freediving, we had a guy from our club black out only a few weeks ago. Luckily they found him drifting in the water and got him to a boat he was allready gone by that time but they got him back with cpr, he spent two days in hospital. Always have a buddy at hand and know your own limits and be carefull even of these it happens just like that.
Safe Diving
 

glennv

hybrid lifeform
#6
To think of it , i can not remember one single freediving related death of someone in a non-spearfishing non exstreme death wish (no-limits) freediving discipline or anyone diving the way freedibing is supposed to be done (with a trained safety buddy).

I have heard of one who died of a 'normal' hart attack during freediving, but that was someone who had a long history of hart problems, so could have happend while running for the bus.
And of course unfortunately lots die while experimenting with breatholding but have no idea about freediving (kids experimenting for instance) . These deaths are sometimes attributed to freediving but have nothing to do with it.
And the last group i would say are freedivers that ignore the basic safety rules and dive alone anyway.

Blackouts DO happen and specialy in competition where people try to explore their limits. but when freediving the way you should and will learn in a good course namely with a very solid safety system and NEVER EVER alone, dying is very very very very unlikely.

So to contradict Bill : It is a very safe sport when practiced the way it should be practiced but lethal when not.
 
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Stephan Whelan

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Jan 7, 1999
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#7
The paramount rule is "Don't Dive Alone - Always With A Buddy".

All clubs, courses, instructors, buddies, manuals and guides I know of tell you this and it cannot be stressed enough.

If you are with a buddy and you have a good system of communication the chances of anything bad happening to you are no higher than other sports (we've been risked assessed for our corporate insurance for the courses we run so can talk with some authority on this).

The reason freedive spearos tend to have more deaths is the fact that they tend to dive alone more and are usually more focussed on the catch than the "freedive". Hence there is sometimes a bigger desire to stay down "just that little bit longer to get the catch".
 

deep thinker

Let the good times roll
Jan 19, 2006
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#8
That is correct, you know youve allready overstayed your welcome but, then you spot the biggie and well thats where the problem starts, to add to my previous post they did find his gun with a huge roman on the spear, so that was the case there.
 

Erik

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Jan 21, 2001
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#9
Stephan Whelan said:
The reason freedive spearos tend to have more deaths is the fact that they tend to dive alone more and are usually more focussed on the catch than the "freedive".
Agreed. Kirk Krack said "It's more external than internal."
Erik
 

Bill McIntyre

San Clemente, CA
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#10
Stephan Whelan said:
The paramount rule is "Don't Dive Alone - Always With A Buddy".

All clubs, courses, instructors, buddies, manuals and guides I know of tell you this and it cannot be stressed enough.

If you are with a buddy and you have a good system of communication the chances of anything bad happening to you are no higher than other sports (we've been risked assessed for our corporate insurance for the courses we run so can talk with some authority on this).

The reason freedive spearos tend to have more deaths is the fact that they tend to dive alone more and are usually more focussed on the catch than the "freedive". Hence there is sometimes a bigger desire to stay down "just that little bit longer to get the catch".
I think this is another example of the difference between pure freediving and freedive spearfishing and our barriers to communication. Sure, all the freediving courses stress that you should always dive with a buddy, but its just not a reality in spearfishing, and is unlikely to change. Competive freedivers are doing nothing else besides trying to extend their depth or time limits, so it would be insane not to have a buddy with nothing else to do but watch them. After all, the buddy isn't after his own fish.

But going back to my statement that its very dangerous- someone replied that its not dangerous at all if done right. That is true, but driving on Southern California freeways is not dangerous if everyone does it right. However, not everyone does it right, and a lot of people get killed. Before driving the freeways, we should consider the reality, not the ideal, and the same is true for freedive spearfishing.

As it happens, there is a similar thread on Spearboard.com, and I posted the passage quoted below a couple of days ago. Again, the focus is on spearfishing, not competive freediving. I'm still not certain what the originator of this thread had in mind. If you don't speafish, then this does not apply to you. But if you do, then it might at least be food for thouht.

I don't think there is any question that one-up/one-down would make us safer as freedive spearfishermen, but the question is how much safer and at what cost in productivity and enjoyment?

I guess you can take the point of view that life is priceless and any increment of additional safety is worth any cost, but I don't think that is realistic. After all, never driving a car would make us safer, but not many are willing to accept the cost.

Many times I have watched a buddy go down through the kelp in fairly decent vis, and then almost panicked when I never saw him come up in what seemed like a long time. Then I looked around and there he was on the surface a few yards away. If he had become tangled on the bottom, what are the chances I would have found him in time to help? If he had blacked out at 10 feet or even on the surface, as long as he was positively buoyant I might have seen him in the kelp, but I might not.

I guess I can see some practical advantage for guys on the East Coast, making deep dives pretty much straight up and down on reefs or wrecks, although even there we may over rate the ability to the guy on the surface to get down to the guy on the bottom, especially when he is all excited. As I recall, the dive buddy of Terry Maas's son could see him from the surface and the depth was alleged be within his capability, but he couldn't save him. But at least if the diver passes out relatively close to the surface and the water is reasonable clear, the surface spotter can save him. I'm told that at least one of our SoCal divers has been saved three times that way. I would think that after the first one or two incidents, he might question putting himself in the hands of a buddy that way, but I guess that is another subject.

But anyway, I doubt many California freedive spearfishermen are going to start using a strict one-up/one-down system. I'm a big pussy, and in fact I've been reminded of that by two different people on the board in the last 24 hours, but even I am not willing to do it. I just rely on being very conservative with my breath holds and arriving at the surface with no feeling of urgency. I'm not dumb enough to think this is foolproof, but its my tradeoff between trying to live for ever and enjoying what life I have.

I enjoy the relative solitude of diving alone as long as I know I have someone around to help me if a fish is hung up deep, etc.
 
#11
I wouldn't cast it as communication barriers. Definitely a difference in emphasis and part of why I think we need a really comprehensive book geared to recreational divers.

I agree with Bill - focusing on something other than your body/breath makes it relatively easy to slip over the line. Combine this with the fact that recreational diving is not conducive to close monitoring - no matter how good the intentions.

I take pictures underwater while freediving quite often. My basic rule is to surface when I start to get uncomfortable. The acts of watching, waiting, and setting up a shot can easily override the urge to breathe so I put the decision in place before I even get in the water. If I see some amazing creature making it's way toward me for that once-in-a-lifetime photo op but I'm allready into a strong urge to breathe - I say goodbye and surface. It's the act of turning away that is the most challenging - I just put it in place in advance and do not question it.

If you are diving with the idea of competing then I think you should have all those supports that competitive divers have in place. For recreational diving - know when to let it go and give yourself plenty of room. And have a buddy. I think it's actually more dangerous. But in the recreational context it's really difficult to watch eachother that closely - so you've got to be conservative. Shallow water blackout is really abrupt - and if you've got no backup that's all she wrote.
 
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efattah

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Mar 2, 2001
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#12
glennv said:
To think of it , i can not remember one single freediving related death of someone in a non-spearfishing non extreme death wish (no-limits) freediving discipline or anyone diving the way freediving is supposed to be done (with a trained safety buddy).
Loren Maas (son of Terry Maas) died while freediving with a buddy (not spearfishing). They were practicing recreational freediving in clear water with the exact protocols. Loren Maas blacked out on the bottom around 15m/50ft. He was always instructed never to hyperventilate, and by under-breathing people have hypothesized that he had a CO2 blackout on the bottom, but no one knows for sure. His buddy was so scared that his heart was racing, and despite several attempts, he was not able to retrieve Loren from the bottom, even though he saw immediately that the problem had happened.
 

naiad

Apnea Carp
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Oct 11, 2003
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#13
efattah said:
He was always instructed never to hyperventilate, and by under-breathing people have hypothesized that he had a CO2 blackout on the bottom, but no one knows for sure.
I didn't know that could happen. I don't normally hyperventilate heavily, but I do always take a few forced deep breaths before a dive. This is because I don't want to have so much CO2 that I can't deal with the situation. My CO2 tolerance is quite good, and even better if I have been training a lot, but extremely high CO2 is a situation I want to avoid unless I am very near the surface and have a competent buddy.

Lucia
 

samdive

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Nov 12, 2002
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#14
and not just "with a buddy" but "with a buddy who knows what they are doing and has the ability to rescue you"

In the pool, no problem, you can pretty much train up your granny to rescue you from anything that might happen, as long as she can swim to the bottom of the pool....

if you're in the sea, you need a buddy who can come and get you from whatever depth you are doing - or a scuba safety, counterweight or other retrieval system and someone to operate it

main moral of the story is - do some proper training. An AIDA Course would cover all this stuff. If you want to train up a pool buddy, have them do the pool and theory part of the course.

best of luck - and don't get scared off, if you do it right and are fit to start with, it's pretty safe!

Sam
 

Marwan

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Sep 3, 2005
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#15
so you folks have something against us spearos :martial , we're not mindless killing machines (just kidding :) ),
have you all seen finding nemo? i feel like one of those sharks in the aa meeting :)
i do agree with you all, that most of us are tempted when they see a big catch t0 wait "just 5 more seconds its turning now" and that takes a lot of control to resist.. :) but more importantly i believe it boils down to character, one of my friends goes spearfishing a lot, he never had a B/O but he did during freedive training, because unlike spearos you wont say "just 5 more seconds", but some freedivers will also say " just a couple of meters more" and thats when problems happen, like i said, my personal belief is that it boils down to character and the sense of responsibility/safety that comes with that.. just my 2 cents

i echo sam's words, dont be scared of all of this, have the proper training by a certified instructor, take it easy dont push yourself and be safe...
NEVER EVER DIVE ALONE

cheers
 

wes

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Feb 15, 2004
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#16
Eric,

Thanks for the technical info on Terry's son' death. Would you please provide more detail on this C02 black out theory, how it works and how to theoretically prevent this. I freedive with my wife and often will be diving below her ability to retrieve me so would like to avoid this by limiting breatheup or whatever is required.

Thanks and Cheers - Wes
 
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#17
wes said:
... limiting breath-up or whatever is required.
If I understood Eric well, it is quite the opposite what he meant. Loren knew not to hyperventilate, so he did the opposite - he ventilated less than normal, hence building more CO2 in lungs and blood, and getting BO because of its high concentration at depth. So limiting the breath-up is probably the thing that killed him (at least it looks so) and not what you should do.

When breathing up, Important is not to change the balance you are used to - hyperventilating (breathing up too fast and/or too deep) will decrease CO2 and delay the signal high CO2 level sends to your brain; while hypo-ventilating (too short, slow and shallow breath-up) will deplete the O2 stock in blood and body tissue, and the high CO2 level can apparently lead to a blackout in depth too.
 

Paul Kotik

FreeDiving Editor
Oct 21, 2003
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#18
samdive said:
and not just "with a buddy" but "with a buddy who knows what they are doing and has the ability to rescue you"

In the pool, no problem, you can pretty much train up your granny to rescue you from anything that might happen, as long as she can swim to the bottom of the pool....

if you're in the sea, you need a buddy who can come and get you from whatever depth you are doing - or a scuba safety, counterweight or other retrieval system and someone to operate it

main moral of the story is - do some proper training. An AIDA Course would cover all this stuff. If you want to train up a pool buddy, have them do the pool and theory part of the course.

best of luck - and don't get scared off, if you do it right and are fit to start with, it's pretty safe!

Sam

Excellent point, Sam. Right on. A buddy is only helpful if the buddy is competent and effective. Otherwise, it's just a spectator who can tell people how you died like a hero.
 

josedesucre

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Sep 14, 2006
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#19
A week ago in the Spearo Board I invited members to give their opinions on the idea of making spearfishing competitions a team sport (a two person team), instead of individual, as it is right now. Nobody has posted any opinion on that thread, but after all of what has been posted here I am convinced that yes, AIDA/CMAS or whoever have any authority to regulate this sport should prohibit individual competions, for the sake of safety. The only big problem to overcome of course, is the size of the egos involved, but I think common sense should prevail.
 
#20
efattah said:
....hypothesized that he had a CO2 blackout on the bottom, but no one knows for sure....
Hi Eric,
could you explain a little more what you mean by this?


In Greece around 50 people died while spearfishing the past summer. A pretty high count considering how safe this sport can be when people are proper educated and not diving alone. I agree with all people saying that diving ( and spearfishing) is a team sport! Its beter to catch less fishes and live to tell the story, than catching more-alone and being endangered every time. Consider how easy it is to get a LMC or LOC while doing long aspettos and also consider how easy it is for a well educated-trained dive-buddy that is watching you during your dive to save you from drowning!!!
For me its also more fun to spearfish with a buddy.
Freediving courses are also a great thing. A lot of spearos dont take courses, just mask-fins-gun and up to the water.....