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Point of NO return?

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New Member
Oct 23, 2001

I'm interested in the point where your brains give you a sign that you have to go back to the surface. How can you know when to go back to the surface? Is it only a matter of feeling or is it something else? So where is the point of NO return?

No return

No one has been to that point and returned to tell the tale...:(

Experience is the best way and taking it one step at a time. You may eventually develop a sense of when it's time to turn around or even abort the dive altogether. The problem is, unless you're REALLY experienced, and even then it's hard, you theoretical max depth/time/distance can change from day to day, hour to hour, and dive to dive. So it's best to turn around when your body tells you to.

The trick is to listen.....

Relationship with blackout?

Ok experience is crucial, but when are you experienced enough to know? And how long will it take to get REALLY experienced?
So can i make a conlusion here that if you will not "listen" you will usually get a blackout?

Thnx for the reply!

Point of no return...

Hi Okke I have been diveing a while and first I didn't even dive that deep because I thought that the depth under 10m would be dangerous it's self. But after that I got to know some facts and did dives deeper.
One good sign is contraction, you feel like your lungs try to breath as they try to push more oxygene to your blood, then I would suggest that you head up, this is if you are doing relatively shallow dives up to 25m or so. Other good indicator is time, if you have a diveing computer you should set the time on it so that as it beeps it is your time to surface. I have heard some of these people do that as they spearfish since when hunting you don't notice how long you have been under..
Hope that helped..:)

Sorry for being a little vague...

Experience means that if you're starting out in freediving, you don't set your goals too deep and too fast. Of course it all depends on where you dive and who you're diving with. If your dive buddy has experience and can rescue you confidently (knows what to do if you blackout or have other problems) then it helps you to relax a little more. But I think at that stage you want to dive as if you are alone and I think that that's a good way to approach diving at any level.

Experience also means that you don't dive to 15m, then 25m, then 35m, then 40m, then 45m. etc....Remember that just because you made a depth on a particular dive never really guarantees it for the next time. Your physiology, state of mind and health could be totally different. The more dives you make to any depth, the more you know what you should feel like on a good dive.

For example, in my recreational diving and depth training I've made many dives to 30m. I have a good sense of what I'm supposed to feel like on a good dive to 30m. If I want to try for a deeper depth, say 45m and I get to 30m and feel awful, or that something isn't right, that's my cue to turn around. This happened to me at the last Canadian regionals. After a terrible start to my dive (I had announced 55m), I got to 30m and checked out how I was feeling. My lungs were already burning and I wasn't relaxed at all. So I turned around and I think I avoided my first blackout.

But say yesterday you made a new personal best of 25m and it was your first time past 20m. Today you want to go for 30m. Fine, but on your way down you get to 25m and you try to judge your body to see if you'll make it to 30m and back. You have only one dive to 25m under your belt and it's probably a blur. You may also be a little anxious about your 30m attempt so you won't be terribly relaxed. So how can you know if you'll make it or not?
So instead of going deeper after every pb, spend some time getting to know your 25m. Make it an easy and confident depth for you, before going deeper. Having the experience of 25m (or whatever depth it is for you) will never guarantee a safe return from deeper depths, but I think it's one more tool a freediver can use to look after himself.

Of course there are many other factors. What I mean by "listen" is to develop an awareness of what constitutes a good dive for you. If you feel you don't have that awareness yet, then make many, many dives to various depths that you are comfortable at. If your max depth is 33m, then get to know the 15-30m zone. How does going deep feel when you've stayed up late the night before, had too much to eat at breakfast, when you're shivering at the surface or when your mind is distracted?...

And most of all, have fun!

Hope this helps...

:eek: Pete
Thanx Pete & Pekka!

Thanks for the replies,

Of course the more information i get the more i learn :)
Did both of you ever dropped or even thought of dropping the weight belt? If so what did you feel?

Hope i'm not asking too much questions...

:eek: kke
I don't know anyone who has dropped their weightbelt. Usually, if you're that far in trouble, you can't think straight enough to do it. People in distress usually look up at the surface, grab the line (if there is one), use their arms to swim and panic. Most usually just swim until the world fades away. Their first instinct is to kick towards the surface.

I think I would ditch my weightbelt only if I was injured at depth, still had lots of air, and just wanted to get a free ride up to the surface. Of course, I could do it if I don't panic and could still think straight. Who knows in 4 degree water.....

If you're too deep, however, ditching your weightbelt only means you will sink more slowly for the first 10m.....:waterwork

anybody else?

It depends, Pete

After spending four intense days with Kirk at his clinic in Long Beach, I would have to say you are only partially right.

When diving for performance, Kirk recommends (and I am now a convert of this) to be neutral at 33 feet. I found this to be hightly comforting when I started doing my target dives the last 2 days of the clinic. One advantage of diving in cold water is that you have to dive with a 7mm suit (which I was) I did a variable ballast attempt to 100 feet, although only managing 87 (due to not being able to equalize past that point) When it came time to ascend, I shot back to the surface due to the buoyancy of my Picasso 7mm suit.

If I had been able to equalize, I could have done the 100 foot target no prob. But after feeling the water rush by my face as I shot back up, I realized that I wasn't going to sink, even at 20 meters.

I am beginning to think that too many people are attempting too big of attempts from their previous ones. one to two meters deeper is what Kirk recommends, and I agree with him.

Now my target depths were different due to the fact that I had learned about the physiological processes that occur at increasing depths.

But I eventually hit the wall and as such now know that I have to work to get to 90 feet now (and then 93, then 96, 100... etc.)

Ditching your weightbelt is a necessary thing when going to deeper depths. The moment even a REMOTE feeling of not doing well on a dive is felt, I would reach for my belt and undo the buckle. I could then hold the belt in place and if I did blackout, I would let go and the belt would fall off and I would ascend to the surface where my buddy could help me.

And on that topic, I am now having to re-evaluate my position on solo diving. I got to witness first hand a samba during our second day of pool sessions, and needless to say, The idea of having a buddy there to help if I need it was quite reassuring.

I'll give more details in my upcoming article, but this gives a hint of how this clinic changed my perceptions of the sport of freediving and spearfishing.
Ditch the weight!!!

I can't believe some people still think ditching your weight won't help you back to the surface. Human body is POSITIVE in sea water, we are 80% made of water, the rest ( air in lung, grease etc...) is mostly positive. So at any depth, if you ditch your weight YOU WILL GO BACK TO THE SURFACE MORE EASILY, especially if you're wearing a wet suit.

It's very important to tell everyone before diving to remember to ditch their weight in case of trouble, mentally exercising on emergency situation help you to know what to do when in panic.
Maybe little bit off the topic, but every drowned scuba diver I've read about, have been wearing their weight belts when found.
Neutral Depth

I'm very unexperienced compared to most of you quys, but to add my opinion on weighting:

Neutral at 10m souns quite shallow to me. Having just cleared 105 ft / 31,5m I was neutral at ~16m and still after turning around had to kick quite hard to get going. And I had no problem at the start of the descend. Having done only 5 open water sessions it feels reassuring to keep the weigting on the lighter side, maybe too light, but can't see much harm done.

So what's the ideal weight? With a 5 mm suit i take 7 kg. with me (my weight is 80 kg.) Still i have the feeling to kick very hard in the descend, but after aprox. 15 m. i feel the negative bouyancy and start falling, feels very relaxing :p . I used 6 kg. before but i had the feeling to kick too hard resulting in less oxygen. I'm still figuring out how you can measure the ideal weight taking down.

I was wondering if one of you ever used a backup balloon jacket (or what it is called) which can take you up in case of emergency instead of dropping the weightbelt? Sort of jacket like Jaques Mayol in "The big Blue". This seems a pretty nice solution i guess...:confused:

Anyone ever tried this before? Is it a good idea or am i just watching too much movies :hmm

9r33t2 :kingkke
More weight or less neoprene

i prefer to wear a 3,5 mm Beuchat wet suit when i hunt, this way i need less weight...
Re: Neutral Depth

Originally posted by Ossi
I'm very unexperienced compared to most of you quys, but to add my opinion on weighting:

Neutral at 10m souns quite shallow to me. Having just cleared 105 ft / 31,5m I was neutral at ~16m and still after turning around had to kick quite hard to get going. And I had no problem at the start of the descend. Having done only 5 open water sessions it feels reassuring to keep the weigting on the lighter side, maybe too light, but can't see much harm done.


Let me clarify my response - I mean being neutral at 10 meters with the minumum amount of weight on your belt at that depth. For example - wearing my 3mm PIcasso suit - I only needed about 8 - 10 lbs to become neutral at 10 meters of depth compared to the 15 lbs that my local tank diving shop told me I would need to be able to descend effectively. That is somewhere between a 50 - 60% decrease in weight added to my waist compared to what the "experts" at the dive shop suggested.

Now granted, each diver has a specific depth at which they want to be at most of the time - Me for example - the underwater digital imaging I am doing doesn't require me to be deeper than 10 - 15 meters in depth - hence I might add or subtract weight as needed based upon my dive plan (I would go into that - but I'll leave that for another day). There might be others who plan to dive deeper and may want to be negatively buoyant at 20 meters (like Brett LeMaster does).

It really is a matter of personal needs regarding safety - but I can't stress that enough - look at safety first, and remember, is your life really worth a $30 weight belt?
About weight belt..

As I dived in the red sea I never even used a wetsuit or weight belt, but at one spot water was so cold that I thought it would be beneficial to wear my suit. I asked the guys for some weights as well and got approx. 4kg what was as I now know way too much, as I had dived all day with no wetsuit and now I got myself wetsuit and weightbelt... as I once dived to -27m I felt that I was sinking rally fast and had to work hard to get moveing up...
That is the only time I thought of dropping the weight belt, but it thought me one important lesson, find your neutral boyancy with the weights even if you feel good on the surface you might get supriced in the deep as you sink faster than before..
I am neutral in about -18m and I think that is ok since when diveing beond 20m I still feel that it is not so much trouble to start getting myself back up again..
the scary feeling when looking up and seeing nothing but little sunglitter up there far and sinking as you turn to start ascending, but havent started to kick...


A variable ballast dive doesn't seem to me the best way to evaluate the proper weighting you need for constant ballast (although that was probably not the point of the exercise). If you had tried to swim down to 90 feet in your 7mm with minimal weight you would probably exhausted yourself trying to reach that depth.

I still don't agree that ditching your weightbelt is something that comes naturally to people when they are panicked or in trouble unless they do it regularly. If you think of any kind of emergency training, you always practice exactly what you should do in case something bad happens. So how many of you have practiced ditching your weightbelt at depth to see what happens? I agree that for certain depths it is a useful tool but only if it's at your disposal (you actually think of doing it). Think of the person (true story) that learned artificial respiration on a live person and instead of ventilating by pinching the person's nose and blowing into their mouth, they blew on the person's cheek to avoid "germs" or whatever, which is what they were taught. That person was in a rescue situation later on and what did he do? He tried to save the person by blowing on his cheek and not into his lungs. :( Same with the half-thrusts for CPR. That's why they teach CPR and AR on dummies, now.

I've only ditched my weightbelt a few times and it was for fun. I was wearing two picasso suits in winter and wanted the extra buoyancy from 40 feet to breach the surface with my monofin. Let me tell you that getting back down was a chore!

I still don't think that at 50m if my ear drum explodes and I get disoriented that I'll have the presence of mind to undo my weightbelt and that I can drift to the surface like a balloon. I think I would keep on sinking. And what if I was at 65m? Sure it will make my ascent easier, but since I don't practice that at depth (maybe I should?) I don't consider it a first line of self-rescue. A depth line is much more useful for self-rescue since I'm personally more familiar with it and would grab it right away in that case. I've used it before, so I feel confident that I would have a good chance of doing it in an emergency.

So I say whatever self-resuce methods you want to depend on, practice them! Otherwise you're just fooling yourself into a fasle sense of security.

Everyone weights themselves differently. I've always been pretty light, only 6 lbs for a 5mm. Early on I had equalizing problems around 30m and I hated the feeling of sinking faster than I could equalize. That was something that definitely led to a panic zone for me. Since then I've cut down the weight. Now I'm neutral from what seems to be 15m-25m and I only start sinking fast at 35-40m.

Re: Weights....

Originally posted by laminar

A depth line is much more useful for self-rescue since I'm personally more familiar with it and would grab it right away in that case. I've used it before, so I feel confident that I would have a good chance of doing it in an emergency.

Ok Pete, i understand it is more safe with a rope then without. The only thing is that i usualy dont have a rope with me, cause i freedive where and whenever i can. For a deepdive in an unfamiliar place i don't know how deep i will go so for me i think i would follow your advice in training to drop the belt, cuase i actually never had to :).

As i'm freediving since 1978 (i even have a picture of it :p) i think a got a little experience the only thing is that nowadays i'm planning to look deeper in the blue and push myself to go a step deeper every time, just to explore my limits.

Would spare-air be a solution in case of an emergency? What are the consequences of using it, of course i understand you have to exhale on the ascend... see also post: Is it true? about this issue of getting spare-air.

Thanks too all the replying freedivers of the forum!

74 feet Constant Ballast in a 7mm suit!

HEHE - The variable ballast was just for fun...;)

But I did effectively swim to 74 feet constant ballast and returned safely. I tried after that but every dive after that was difficult and had to abort after about 45 feet (Later that day I came down with a REALLY bad Cold - I figure that was the reason for the failed target depth of 100 feet)

Regarding your comments about not thinking about ditching your belt - this is where the clinic really began to pay off. This was a very serious topic for both Kirk and Brett - As I have said to many about this sport - it isn't for the lazy - physically or mentally. I realized that as I focused on the techniques for safe freediving taught by these two professionals, I was all of a sudden diving deeper and more relaxed, aware of my physiological processes and yet enjoying the view at depth.

It is hard to put into words, and is best experienced in person at the clinic to know what I am talking about.

Hope this clears this up...
we had a post a while back about the use of spare air for freedinving in caves and closed environments and agreed that i probably wasnt a problem

the only problem would be that you need a o/w cert. to go to 100ft and past that a deep water cert. would be needed

oh well i guess if you acended slowly dcs wouldnt be a problem
and even if you had dcs it would be very mild and its better a little dcs then being dead at 100ft