One of the questions that most aspiring freedivers ask before they get into the sport, has to do with the potential dangers of freediving. So, is freediving dangerous? This is the question we also asked to some of the world’s best freedivers and instructors - Helena Bourdillon, Alli Penovich, Natalie Rudman and Pavel Tomm. Here’s what they had to say about it.
I really understand that creating a scary picture of freediving is very easy. People like dramas. People like to watch other people doing things which look pretty extreme from the outside and of course, there are activities which kind of "call" for it. And freediving is one of them. So why is it? Well, maybe because people don't know much about it. It is very easy to say if someone, who wants to climb K2 is a crazy guy risking his life, but if we have a chance to see what preparation and effort is on the background of such a performance, suddenly the madman becomes someone else and our view of things will change. And so it is with freediving. The sport itself is not dangerous, but there could be dangerous situations and dangerous freedivers.
And how can we really minimize the danger? Well, with knowledge, training, experience and with good equipment. In other words by educating ourselves and consistently training, we gain experience which helps us relax and focus on the dive. We have everything in control and we make right decisions.
Knowledge is the basis. In freediving you need to understand physics, physiology, how to breathe or how not to breathe, what is hypoxia or blood shift and how to avoid placing yourself in dangerous situations. You need to understand how to avoid blackouts and how to react quickly and do a proper rescue. There is a lot of information you need to know before you start. The more you understand freediving, the safer and more easy it becomes.
Then you need to train, because training gives you the power. You can not make your technique more efficient or reduce your oxygen consumption just by reading about it. You need to train. You need to adapt. Especially in the beginning, stay in your comfort zone. Use all the knowledge you have. Focus on execution and not on the result. Analyze all parts of your dive. Look for every single detail you can improve. Don't be in a rush, if your dives are still not comfortable. Gain experience step by step and build the trust. With experience you can judge your abilities and you know what you can do.
If you have trust in yourself before and during the dive, you don't need to worry about it. When I have confidence in my abilities, the relaxation comes by itself. I don't have to force myself into anything, I don't have to fight with anything. And what's most important, I had everything under control during the dive. I feel safe, I feel strong and relaxed and words like risk or danger don’t even fly through my mind.
But freediving is not only about you. It is a team game. You should never underestimate any situation. As a safety diver, I am always prepared for the worst case scenario and a blackout in depth. And that's what I'm expecting from my buddies as well. Without trust in your buddies, it's hard to achieve a good dive. Don't dive with someone you don't trust and of course, never freedive alone.
If you do everything as you should, you will find magic under the water. Enjoy it.
Freediving isn’t a dangerous sport as long as you freedive safe & smart. I’ve been freediving the majority of my life and i’ve never encountered a dangerous experience because i always surround myself with dive buddies that i can completely trust. Freediving is my escape form the real world, where i find peace. Whether freediving on the line for depth or spearfishing, it is always important to dive within your limits. When i’m training, i either have my coach or trusted buddies there as my safety divers. We communicate the dive that i’m going to do and where they are going to meet me and they pay close attention during my entire dive. When out spearfishing, i dive within the comfort zone of the group, not my comfort zone. You never wanna be in a position where you put yourself in danger. If the average depth of the group is at -20 meters, i also dive to -20m that day. I am not going to dive to -30m, if no one can assist me if something happens down there.
Freediving is an incredible sport that all ages can enjoy and a great way to get out there and see a part of the world not many experience. It doesn't ever have to be dangerous if you are smart in how you dive. The best thing you can do as a new freediver is to take a freediving course. They are offered all over the world and in a few days you will learn not only how to be a better freediver and how to be a safe one as well.
Freediving is not like scuba diving where you are breathing compressed air and relying on equipment to survive. In freediving we rely on our own breath, mind and emotional state in order to go down. We can only go deeper when we are comfortable to do so. Our lungs compress as we descend and they expand as we ascend. It is rare and uncommon for oxygen levels to accumulate as they do in scuba diving and so cases of decompression sickness are extremely rare.
Freediving is extremely safe because we always dive in teams of buddies. When one person dives, the other acts as a safety and they meet the diver in the last part of their ascent where a Loss of Motor Control or Shallow Blackout is possible to occur, but that is also rare. The diver acting as safety is trained to bring back and revive the diver. This is what we learn, do and practise in every single entry level freediving course. Freediving is safe because most likely you will not push yourself to your limits to reach a blackout until your mind and body has passed many limitations that hold a diver back from going deeper and pushing the limits.
I’ve certainly experienced people come up to me and say how they wouldn’t be able to hold their breath for that long and they’d die. If you do a freediving course with a reputable school and instructor, you will learn about relaxation techniques, you will learn what’s going on in the body, what the symptoms are telling you and with this knowledge it is possible to improve your breath hold significantly in a short period of time, something which will give the freediver a lot more confidence.
A lot of people also say that they would panic, especially during the depth disciplines, that they wouldn’t be able to handle it because of the fear. To them i say that you build up very gradually, you start only with a few meters and you do it in a nice, relaxed, slow way and when you are really comfortable with that, you maybe add some more meters and really take your time and make sure that you are calm and relaxed and that way it makes it most enjoyable. You build confidence in your abilities and that way you are able to enjoy the sport and see what you can achieve with it.
Avoid A Freediving Black Out