Freediving Part 1

Posted by in Nugget from Alastair

In 2001 I moved to a coastal town in Northern Italy and was instantly captivated by the mystery and majesty of the neoprene clad freedivers that frequent the rocky shoreline in search of the tranquility, beauty and fish that await below the surface.

A quick internet search clarified that I was in one of the historical epicenters of the sport, and the waters around Portofino had been used for decades for record attempts. Altavista also brought Luc Besson’s 1988 epic The Big Blue to my attention, and I was instantly hooked.

Within a year I could hold my breath for five and a half minutes and swim down to 50m (150 feet) using only a monofin and a mask. These are extremely average achievements when compared to professional freedivers, but that makes them accessible to 80% of you. If you can swim and you don’t suffer from chronic hiccups then a beginners apnea course will shown you how to unlock the innate freediving talent that all human were born with.

Over the next few posts I will try to catalogue the elements of this sport that so interested me. I will cover statistics and records, biology and evolutionary mechanisms, and try to explain what a successful apneist and Michael Jordan have in common…

Let’s start from one of my most precious discoveries – the sensation you feel when you hold your breath (you know, the need to breathe) is not due to a lack of oxygen, but to a build up of CO2. Unpleasant, but not something that will kill you. Learn to withstand the discomfort and you unlock the door to what I have always considered a quasi superpower!