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How to start Freediving


I... need... AQUA!!
Apr 26, 2003
The Netherlands

For all you beginner Freedivers, welcome to Deeper Blue. This site and forum are a very good resource on how to start with this wonderful activity. Before you read any further I have to make clear that it is advisable to take a Freediving course, this thread may be very good to start with, but taking a course will make everything even clearer and safer. This thread will explain basic things about Freediving, like an explanation of the disciplines of competitive Freediving useful for training, safety, the basic breathing technique, relaxation, visualisation, the dive reflex, equalisation, training tables and Freediving equipment. If you have any additions please post them and I’ll implement them in this post.

The disciplines
This section gives info on the disciplines of competitive Freediving useful for training

The Freediver is floating on the surface of the water, with the face in the water (the nose and mouth immersed), holding his breath.

Dynamic can be split into two disciplines, Dynamic with fins (DWF) and Dynamic without fins (DNF). Dynamic is swimming distances underwater.

On his own strength the Freediver pulls himself down a rope. At the turning point or bottom the Freediver turns and pulls himself back up.

Constant Weight can be split into two disciplines, Constant weight with fins (CWF) and Constant weight without fins (CNF). In Constant weight the Freediver swims down a line on his own strength. At the turning point/bottom the Freediver turns and swims up the line. The line may not be touched.

This section gives info on safety; contractions, black-out, sambas (LMC), laryngospasm, the buddy system, the safety procedures and underwater rescue.

Some of you may experience abdomibal contractions at some point during breathold. This is a natural reflex caused by the urge to breath (usually due to elevated CO² levels). Contractions don't mean you immediatly have to surface and breathe, you can do a while longer.

Samba or LMC (Loss of Motor Control)
You get a LMC when your oxygen level is too low. When you have a samba you shake (minor to heavily) like an epileptic stroke.

There are different types of black-outs, the Shallow Water Black-out (SWB) and the Pool Black-out.

Shallow-water Black-out
Shallow-water blackout is a sudden unconsciousness; can occur while practicing depth disciplines. The lungs expand (due to a pressure differential on ascent) and "suck" oxygen from the blood.

Pool Black-out
You get a pool black-out when your oxygen level is way too low because of a long breath hold.

Of course it is the goal of a Freediver to never get a samba or black-out but take a look at the videos on this site if you want to know what sambas and black-outs look like:

Laryngospasm is a protective reflex that protects the airway by closing off the vocal cords preventing water from entering the lungs. This is usually stimulated when water hits the back of the throat. One should do two rescue breaths to break the spasm and the airway should open and spontaneous breathing begins. If it doesnt then continue rescue breathing at one breath every five seconds.

The Buddy system
The buddy system is a system for Freedivers to dive safely, never dive without a buddy!! Your buddy should know all safety procedures (see below). You can find buddies on this forum in the find a buddy/ places to dive forum. A lifeguard at a pool is never good enough, even if you ask them to keep an eye on you, people have drowned even with a lifeguard keeping an eye them.

Safety Procedures
The basic safety procedure is one diver down the other on the surface keeping an eye on the diver.

In static the one on the surface keeps not only the time but also taps the diver on the shoulder after a period of time, to check if the diver is still fully conscious. The diver should respond by giving an OK signal or by sticking the index finger up. If the diver does not respond to the tap turn him around immediately, keep his airways above the water and take his mask off, if the diver has lost consciousness tell him to breath or call his name and blow him gently in the face (mouth and nose) and he should wake up, never slap or shout at the diver! It is very useful to know CPR in a worst case scenario, although it is very, very rare that CPR is used to recover the diver.

In Dynamic the buddy uses a snorkel and swims along with the diver, if the diver suddenly blows out his air, pull him up to the surface, if the diver stops swimming, pull him up to the surface, after pulling the diver up to the surface use the same procedure used in static.

In Constant Weight and Free Immersion the buddy stays on the surface and meets the Freediver somewhere on ascent, never dive too deep and gain confidence in your current depth before increasing that depth. Increase depth gradually!

Underwater rescue
In this thread is a lot about getting a person to the surface:

The Basic Breathing Technique

The best way to breathe up is to take slow, deep breaths.

Chest/belly breathing
The breathing technique most used is the chest/belly breathing technique, try inhaling so that your belly pops out, if you succeed, inhale deeper by using your chest and belly. This technique makes you breathe slower and relaxes you a lot.

Relaxation is one of the most important things in Freediving, if you're not relaxed you won't be able to Freedive well. When you're doing Static Apnea you want to be completely relaxed, every tense muscle uses loads of oxygen and energy. You can relax your muscles by doing a routine, when your face is submerged the first thing you can do is pass your thoughts to every muscle you can think of and relax that muscle. Pre-dive (before the dive) relaxation is also very important. The Breathing technique in the above section may be a very good pre-dive relaxation technique, but there are other pre-dive relaxation techniques you can use, most of them are borrowed from Yoga. Check this site for Yoga relaxation and breathing techniques: Yoga Home Page, yoga breathing, yoga postures, Pranayama, breathing fundamentals, yoga for beginners, yoga as a mind-body therapy, yoga as an alternative therapy, alternative medicine, complementary medicine, integrative medicine

When you're doing Static Apnea you don't want to think about your time and you don't want to think about "how much air" you have left. Instead you should visualise nice things, a nice beach for example, or any peaceful surrounding. Your mind passes from one thought or visualisation to another, try not to think about bad things, just good things. Some people can let their thoughts go and think nothing, that's the best thing to do, but this isn't accomplished by thinking you're thinking nothing because if you're thinking you're thinking nothing, you're still thinking. ;)

The mammalian dive reflex

Read these articles to understand the mammalian dive reflex better:
Unraveling the mammalian diving reflex (Part I) by Erik Seedhouse on - Fanatical About FreeDiving, Scuba Diving, Spearfishing & Technical Diving
Unraveling the Mammalian Dive Reflex (Part II) by Erik Seedhouse on - Fanatical About FreeDiving, Scuba Diving, Spearfishing & Technical Diving


To equalize pressure in your sinusses and ears there are some techniques (see below), to equalize your mask just blow a little air in it through your nose.

Pinch your nose and try to blow some air out through your nose, this air wil go into your sinusses and ears.


Training Tables

CO² Tables
CO² is the common trigger for the urge to breathe. CO² Tables are meant to increase your tolerance to high CO² Levels, you do this by decreasing resting periods before a breath hold. The breath holds in a CO² table are usually 50% of your personal record.

An example of a CO² Table:
1. ventilate 2:30 static 1:30
2. ventilate 2:15 static 1:30
3. ventilate 2:00 static 1:30
4. ventilate 1:45 static 1:30
5. ventilate 1:30 static 1:30
6. ventilate 1:15 static 1:30
7. ventilate 1:00 static 1:30
8. ventilate 1:00 static 1:30
total duration 25:15

O² Tables
O² Tables are meant to increase your tolerance to low O² Levels, you do this by increasing breath holds while keeping the resting periods the same. The last breath hold in an O² table is usually up to 80% of your personal record.

An example of an O² Table:
1.ventilate 2:00 static 1:00
2.ventilate 2:00 static 1:15
3.ventilate 2:00 static 1:30
4.ventilate 2:00 static 1:45
5.ventilate 2:00 static 2:00
6.ventilate 2:00 static 2:15
7.ventilate 2:00 static 2:30
8.ventilate 2:00 static 2:30
total duration 30:45

The CO² and O² tables can be modified to suit the divers will and feeling. I personally do these tables twice a week.

This thread is under construction, any suggestion/criticism is a welcome contribution!
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Freediving Sloth
Sep 8, 2002
Tel-Aviv, Israel
First post continued (by Akoni):

Freediving Equipment

A list of Freediving equipment:
- Low volume mask.
- Snorkel
- Long bladed fins or Monofin
- Two piece, open cell wetsuit.
- Rubber weight belt. (Freedivers try to be neutrally bouyant at 10m (33ft) so weights should be calibrated accordingly)

A list of popular low volume masks:
- Cressi Minima
- Cressi Superocchio
- Omer Alien
- Omer Bandit
- Aqualung Sphera
- Sporasub Samurai

A list of popular long bladed fins:
- Cressi Gara 3000
- C4 Falcon
- Omer Millenium
- Omer Bat

A list of popular monofin brands:
- SpecialFins
- Waterway
- LeaderFins

A list of popular wetsuit brands:
- Elios
- Omer
- Cressi
- Picasso
- Topsub
- Mares

Packing however is something completely unnecessary for beginners and most of the time even for advanced freedivers. Using the schedules should give a performance boost, also train finning technique, stretching and relaxation, if you can use one finstroke less than you did before you can go further, if you can relax more before submerging you can conserve your air better and longer. Packing brings not only the chance of damage to the lungs but also other risks, safety risks. Before you start packing you should have a more stable performance and a buddy that knows every aspect of Freediving and Freediving Safety.
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Lets flesh out this work in progress a little....First, take a class.

Regarding Safety Procedures: There is more to this than meets the eye. For example, what is a laryngospasm and how do you release it? What is the appropriate head position for an unconscious diver when you bring them to the surface? How do you protect their airway? What do you do when a diver Sambas or blacks out?

My point is that Akoni is offering a useful outline but practical instruction is critical. So take all this information and keep it in mind when you get into a class. Simply reading it doesn't mean that you know it or understand it.

Freedivers try to be neutrally bouyant at 10meters (33ft) so weights should be calibrated accordingly.

Descent/Ascent Rate: Once a diver is negatively bouyant he strives for a sink rate of 1meter per second and the same rate on ascent.

Surface Interval:
Evidence suggests that adequate surface intervals are required to avoid asymptomatic nitrogen build-up.... a common rule for surface intervals is: for dives above 25meters, two times the duration of the previous dive and for dives below 25meters, two and a half times the duration of the previous dive.

I am sure I can come up with plenty more...

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Campari Survivor
May 31, 2005
Good idea "dutch", this thing is useful. What i can add for newbies is that a good trainer and a good course would be even more useful. But this is perfect as a sticky thread.
Shallow Water Blackout:
Usually occurs in 10meters of water or less and primary contributing factors are: hyperventilation, exercise, a competitive personality and youth. In otherwords, you can black out in shallow water for a number of reasons so plan and prepare for your dive carefully. Get trained, take a course.

Vacuum Effect:
While a diver descends lung volume decreases and 02 concentration increases due to hydrostatic pressure increasing. On ascent, the lungs increase in volume as hydrostatic pressure decreases which rapidly reduces 02 concentration to critical levels. The Vacuum effect is really a net flow of 02 back to the lungs from all the organs including the brain. It is most pronounced in the last 33ft of ascent where the pressure differential is greatest. It is instantaneous and without warning and is the result of critically low 02 level effectively switching off the brain. (paraphrasing from the manual).

Deepwater Blackout:
1)During descent bradycardia occurs and heartrate and pulse fall to very low levels. However, we are head down and that makes it easier for oxygenated blood to reach our brains. When we turn upright at the bottom of the dive we momentarily interupt blood flow to our head and we may black out. One should be very careful at this phase and spend a moment in the horizantal position before one slowly inverts oneself.

2)Or one can over-purge and reduce ones C02 levels too low and not notice when 02 levels are too low to sustain consciousness.

Primary contributing factors include longer breath-holds at deeper depths, hyperventilating or excessive purging, insufficient rest periods between dives and aggressive turnarounds.
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A laryngospasm is a protetive reflex that protects the airway by closing off the vocal cords in the throat preventing water from entering the lungs. When a swimmer is drowning, this is usually stimulated when the water hits the back of the throat. The spasm can last for several minutes until either the diver is recovered/rescued or he takes a "death breath" of water as the body tries a last ditch effort to save itself.

If you are supporting a diver in black out who is experiencing a laryngospasm - breathing is seen in the chest but not heard at the mouth and nostrils - then one should do two breaths of rescue breathing into the diver to break the spasm and the airway should open and spontaneous breathing begins. If it doesnt then continue rescue breathing at one breath every five seconds...
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Well-Known Member
Nov 15, 2005
Brunswick Heads NSW AUSTRALIA
Huge thanks for starting this thread!
Most of what i'd read on the forum was much too advanced for me to understand and i was feeling somewhat overwhelmed- but this thread has set out the absolute basics and for me i now have a starting point.
Can anyone set out a very simple and basic first month beginners training routine for in the pool and out of the pool?
(who wants to dive with the haenyos of Jeju Island)
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I... need... AQUA!!
Apr 26, 2003
The Netherlands
Thanks for all compliments and suggestions!! :)

The nitrogen build-up in beginning freedivers is too little to cause problems.

Purging is not for beginners and in my opinion it's the same as hyperventilating which should be avoided anyways!

Deepwater black-outs are really rare and not stuff for beginners.

The vacuum effect as you call it (never heard of that term) is described in the shallow water black-out section.
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New Member
Dec 3, 2005
This thred is superb! It has everything that a true beginner needs and even more! I would really like to see this thred stickied and or just for it to be a "newbie" library of information.

Messanger Staic Chit Chat: AkA MSCC. If you're talking to someone on a messanger and if you want to add a little static fun, then try holding your breath while you type. This will be basically a normal land static,but you'll be moving your fingers a little and it will be using oxygen. I personally like this beacuse it uses just enough oxygen that it isn't too hard, but it isn't too easy if you can type fast.


New Member
Feb 3, 2006
Berlin, Germany
a great idea to start this thread and putting all the information for beginners together.
i agree with sherrin - please add some information on how a beginner could start a basic training to get ready for the ocean.


Active Member
Feb 4, 2006
Thanks for all the great info.

Your tables (if I'm reading them right..I'm jst starting out) start at 1:30 breath hold time. What to do if I can't even hold my breath 1:30 yet?


I... need... AQUA!!
Apr 26, 2003
The Netherlands
You can adjust them to your maximum times, take about 50% of your max and use that for the breathhold time in the CO² tables. :)


Well-Known Member
Feb 26, 2005
Sligo north west ireland
Hi Jfelkins
Just start where you can and adjust the tables to suit. I couldn,t get past 45 secs at the start nut am up to 3mins45 secs now which is still pretty poor compared to a lot. But you will be amazed at the speed you will progress


Active Member
Feb 4, 2006
Ok thanks. I'll try that.

another question I had is; All of the techniques I read about involve "total" relaxation. It seems like a huge shift to be in the water. I know alot of people are into competition diving but I just want to be able to dive deep and stay down longer while i'm out in the ocean. Maybe even hunt some day. The adventure of exploring on a single breath is the draw for me. This article really lights up my imagination.

How do these techniques translate to be " out on the water"?


Georgian Bay Freediver
Jan 14, 2006
Parry Sound, ON
[LEFT said:
jfelkins[/left]]Ok thanks. I'll try that.

another question I had is; All of the techniques I read about involve "total" relaxation. It seems like a huge shift to be in the water. I know alot of people are into competition diving but I just want to be able to dive deep and stay down longer while i'm out in the ocean. Maybe even hunt some day. The adventure of exploring on a single breath is the draw for me. This article really lights up my imagination.

How do these techniques translate to be " out on the water"?
The CO2 tolerance will help you in both land and dry. I find that relaxation is MUCH easier on land.

Competitive diving isn't necessary but the skills you learn from that will certainly aid you in your exploration. I myself share the same interest of exploring and possibly hunting one day. Think about your C02 tolerance tables. For your and my interest this would allow us to come go down for a few minutes then come back and go down with less time in between. (Normally for safety reasons you should stay 'top side' for double your time you were down... For example if you did a 2:00 dive you should stay top side for 4 minutes before going down again. I believe this would help you if you did c02 tolerance tables because your body would be able to tolerate the c02 better.)

I myself will have to concentrate really hard on relaxation because I have a very active mind when under the water. There are many tips to help relax yourself before you take the final breath. One of them is to take a 3 second deep breath, hold for another 3 seconds and then slowly exhale for 10-12 seconds. This will help slow down your heart rate. (I got this technique from someone on here as well... very sorry I forget who I got it from :().
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