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Deep freediving – Part 2 – The dive… Surface preparation…

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Ok… Welcome to part 2…

So we are now in a pretty strong position to have a good dive. If we have followed the preparation from my last post (with some variation of course for personal preference).


The moments before any deep dive will be a trying time, even for the most zen diver! Negative feelings can quickly take over and raise anxiety levels, heart rate and cloud the mind so much that you forget all your training.

My first deep dive to 40m was probably one of my worst ever dives. Not because i was unfit or unskilled but because i was full of performance anxiety. I didnt relax properly before getting to the waters edge, or on the surface. I did a terrible duck dive and I finned really slowly…… It all ended up in nearly getting a samba (Hypoxic fit) not good!

What steps can you take to avoid such a fate….

Lets imagine we are diving from a boat. Its probably the most challenging of environments to prepare on as you will be probably far from shore, in deep water with few visible structures to focus on.

Finding a quiet place, an area that you can call your own is a great place to start. Boats are notoriously cramped places so finding this fortress of solitude (excuse the superman ref) can be a difficult task. The beauty of being at sea though is you can turn your back on the boat and focus on the horizon. I have found great little spots on the smallest of vessels. Our RIB had a nice little spot on the transom next to the A-frame where you could   chill out. The boat we rent whilst in Gozo has a roof deck which is possibly the most relaxing place on planet earth. When we were filming for Channel 4 this summer the boat we were on had a nice big deck which had lots of seating and plenty of places to call you own.

Once you have found your spot, start going over your kit and talking to your buddy about the dive. Its important to be happy with all your kit before you get in the water, so check you mask is either sprayed with de-fogger or is at least clean and ready for some good old fashioned spit. Check that its the correct tightness, its way more difficult doing this in the water and can be quite hard work. Make sure your fins are in good shape, if they have interchangeable blades ensure they have been screwed on properly and that any clips are secured. Check your lanyard for damage, and make sure it releases cleanly and at the right tension (you don’t want it to come undone by mistake).

Although most line based freedives will be fairly simple in esence … you go down… you come back up again, its important to ensure that your buddy or buddies have an exact idea of what you are planning to do. You must never go further than you planned on the surface.  Decide what depths you want your buddies to meet you on the ascent, if you are going to use any hand signals, if you are going to have your eyes open or closed (closed is not a great idea!). You also need to be confident in their own abilities. I wouldnt trust someone to be my buddy without having done some more recreational dives with them beforehand. Remember your buddy is often your last line of defense against a more severe outcome.

Once you have gone through the practicalities its time to focus on relaxing. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you are trying to prep for the dive and to leave you on your own for a bit, its not being a diva its just being aware of your own body.  It can be difficult to relax if you have someone yammering in your ear about what was on the TV last night, or even worse possibly freaking you out with tales of dives gone wrong.

Start your stretches, really focusing on diaphragm, rib cage mobility and legs. There is nothing worse than getting a cramp mid-dive, or not having the flexibility you need in the chest to equalise that last drop of air. You will need to incorporate some deep breathing exercises too, in order to prep your lungs for that big final breath. If you can, throw in some Pranayama exercises like Kapalbhati  (skull shining breath).

The next phase, for me, is about rehearsing the dive in your head. Start visualising the entire dive from start to finish. Break it down in to its constituent elements and try to commit the whole dive in to a place in your mind that is almost as intuitive as muscle memory.

I also prepare a mantra for the dive… A song, a poem, or even a little tune. You want to prepare to repeat this over and over again when you actually dive. Its also a good idea to slow it down…. a lot! A personal favorite is ‘3 blind mice‘. So i will start singing the nursery rhyme in my head over and over again, but at about half speed or even less. This slow and repetitive element really helps to take your mind off the more challenging aspects of the dive, depth and apnea.

The final stage to all your prep is of course to get in the water and go to the line.

Some people like to prep whilst sitting upright by the line, others like to lay on their back, others like to use a snorkel and look down the line. I like to do a combination. Ill spend 2 minutes on my back then about one minute upright by the line. This give me a massive boost to my relaxation for the first stage then a more focused final phase. Each to their own though.

The final breaths are of course critical. Do not succumb to the feeling of needing to hyperventilate, this is very dangerous and will limit your depth and time and may cause a shallow water blackout(for reasons i will go in to some other time). Focus on nice relaxed breathing (ill post a final breaths tutorial at some point, its too much to go in to for this post). Always focusing on the exhale and always from the belly. As you take your final breath some people will finish there, whilst some will start packing. I am not a fan of packing, not because I cant do it but because i feel it ruins my relaxation and increases my heart rate too much. For those who dont know what it is, packing is a method of pumping air from the mouth in to the lungs, thereby increasing their volume beyond what you can take through a normal breath. It can be dangerous to do, so only do so after receiving training from a qualified instructor (like me). Its an advanced technique and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly.

Now its time to dive!

That concludes this part. If you have any question please let me know !

The next part… part 3, will start from the duck dive and will cover the entire dive including the recovery breaths!

Dive safe!


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