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freediving safety - what's a buddy to do?

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Well-Known Member
Apr 11, 2001
For the past several years I have been freediving in the Florida springs - max depth of about 80' with nice sandy bottoms and plenty of visibility. However, these past couple of weeks I began diving into deep sinkholes - one about 120' and the other over 200' (visibility from the topside limited). At about a depth of 40' or so I go negative and by time I hit 60-70', I'm sinking like a rock into the darkness - kind of spooky given my normal diving experiences.

It seems that even if I am with a world class freediving buddy, that there would be little they could do to help me if something goes wrong at 75' and I'm falling into a dark 200' hole. What safety precautions (short of having scuba buddies down below) should I be practicing? What safety measures are you deep divers doing that I should know about? Now that I have quit my static practice alone in my hottub, I don't simply wish to substitute it with another unsafe activity.


Deep Buddy

Hi Scott, I'll let others elaborate more, but one thing to know is that blackout problems are extremely rare at depth, and it's most important that you have a buddy at the surface for when you get back. You're weighted properly, so if you do blackout, which will most likely be on the way back up, you will still bob up within your buddies view, if you've got the vis.
Erik Y.

One of the things you can do is to weight yourself better. If you're diving in the sinkholes, where the depth is relatively bottomless, it all depends on where you want to spend most of your time. If you are recreational diving at deep depths, weight yourself to be neutral at a deeper depth (40-60ft). If you're already sinking at 40ft and want to be comfortable and not fighting the negative buoyancy at 70-100ft, then you're wearing way too much weight.

The other safety consideration is a depth line. I personally consider a 100ft dive as my limit for recreational diving. Anything beyond that I would use a depth line with enough floatation at the surface and weight at the bottom to make the line taught enough for free immersion. If I plan to make longer dives to 100ft where I'm spending some time down there, I always use a depth line. It's a good way to get down without wasting energy and is a life line if ever you have a problem at depth. It also greatly assists you buddy if the viz is bad because he knows where you're likely to come up and can always spot you on the way up underwater if he's worried.

So what's it like to dive in the sinkholes? What is there to see?


Erik & Pete,

Thanks for the comments. As I'm learning, much of freediving is psychological and Erik's comments will certainly reduce my anxieties (not below an unsafe level) when I'm in deep (for me) waters. As to weights, I never even used them until about a month ago after some conversations with Christopher. In my recent sinkhole experiences, I have been wearing a 2 pound wrist weight and carrying about a 2 pound light. I think I will try it without the wrist weight in future dives (remember, I'm in warm freshwater with only a bathing suit, fins & mask). This may slow down my descent (and anxieties).

What is there to see in sinkholes? Absolutely nothing but depths. I've just maxed out in the Springs that are accessible (Troy at 80', Wakulla Springs (much deeper) does not allow "swimming" over the spring head) and I don't have a large enough boat to get to any decent off-shore sites. I just have a personal goal to hit 100' (and I'm taking it slow). Why? I guess the same reason that Erik ice-dives and people climb mountains. I really have no desire to go any deeper as I only freedive just for recreation. But I'll remember the depth line if I ever get any good at this.

Thanks again,

Good question, Scott. I've often wondered myself...people say, "You're doing that BY YOURSELF? You should have a buddy with you!" and I;m often going, "Why, to haul my body back?" In a lot of situations, such as getting jammed in a passageway, there isn't much anybody can do for you.
Some situtations, it's obvious that having a pal with you is good...there are a lot of things I'll try when somebody is there that I would probably wimp out of on my own. But a lot of times there just isn't much they can do.
I'd say the same for a lot of activities where people get killed at times: climbing, nordic skiing, bulldogging....there are times you are just plain on your own, and that's probably why you are there.
Maybe I should amplify that, since some of my comments have been taken as being "anti-safety".
Obviously you'd have to be an idiot not to try to maximize your chances of survival in anything you do. But MAXIMIZE would pretty much mean, not doing stupid things like climbing ice faces or diving 100 feet underwater without any air or parachute or anything. You have to balance your morbid fear of death with the concept that you can't be afraid of being afraid.
If you want to be safe, you don't climb rock faces or ski in back country (I've had more friends killed by avalanches while XC skiing than any other sport), or jump out of airplanes, or run whitewater or undertake activities that require carrying a gun. If you DO do such things, you are running risks, and everybody sets their own ratio or risk against accomplishment. (Hell, the press calls Freedivers "Daredevils")
You can do hairy things alone and survive. You can drive to work in a Volvo and get killed. It's all perspective--and the center of any perspective the head of the person doing the perceiving.;

Well Snorkelbum, I agree on some of the no buddy things you say, but to me buddy is a safety and a friend who I can share my experiences about the dive right away, like if there is some cool stuff I just spotted, and have you ever dived dual, you go down with your buddy, I think that is cool too, because you have a friend who you can tell things right there under and double the eyes to spot interesting things!
For me buddy is neccesary if I dive deep, as I was diveing in the Red sea just a week ago I felt dizzy few times after I surfaced, and that told me that I do need a buddy who can take care of me if something really goes wrong.
Well hope you are doing good and strong!:eek:
Solamente yo

Hi snorklebum, I'm with you on this one. For competitive attempts, then safety and buddies are important, but I dive solo most of the time. Mostly I don't have a choice, I either dive solo or I can't dive, but that doesn't mean that I want a buddy there all the time. There is nothing like being out in the water, sometimes a mile away from shore, diving and floating. I don't reccomend it for others, but then I try not to reccomend anything to anybody. We all make our own decisions and choose our destinies I believe. If one day may day comes, then that is my choice. It's not about flaunting death, it's about accepting that death is a part of life, and to live now. These are my beliefs that I live by, I don't mean to preach, but it's also about freedom.
Erik Y.
I enjoyed the DeeperBlue article on solo diving--it expressed my sentiments very well.
And, reading it, I thought of something else.....the locos I dive with, I'm probably MORE likely to get hurt than when I'm by myself.
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