Freediving, free diving, or skin diving, is now considered as the number 2 extreme sport and is not for everyone. It is a risky sport and is not something to be done lightly or simply as a hobby.
Freediving is a form of underwater diving that relies on the diver’s ability to hold their breath underwater in deep depths until they come up to resurface. It is left to the diver in choosing his or her diving attire, with the option to use fins for faster resurfacing.
In reality, according to the Diver’s Alert Network (DAN), some 40 freediving-related deaths happen each year. The majority of these deaths occurs because of unnecessary carelessness or involves untrained freedivers. To give you an idea of the dangers of the sport, here are 5 danger scenarios and how to avoid them should you decide to take up freediving.
Hypoxia or Blackout
Hypoxia, loss of consciousness, or blackout occurs because of low stores of oxygen in the blood or the brain becomes badly starved of oxygen that it shuts down. If a diver doesn’t regain consciousness in 30 seconds, drowning will occur. This is a major cause of almost all freediving deaths, but something that could have been prevented had the diver followed the age-old rule to never, ever go freediving without a buddy. Even the most experienced and professional freedivers never dive alone.
Decompression Sickness (DCS)
This happens when a freediver takes on nitrogen in their tissues due to increasing pressure caused by depth. When symptoms of DCS occur such as joint pains, loss of consciousness, paralysis, vertigo, and the like, the only way out of this is to enter a decompression chamber similar to what divers use for emergencies. To avoid DCS, simply follow adequate surface intervals in between freedives. Depending on the depth of the dive, an interval of between 4 to 6 minutes is enough.
As a diver goes deeper in water, the nitrogen concentration in their blood increases. Beyond 40 meters, the diver will experience signs of narcosis, akin to feeling drunk. It has always been suggested by professional divers to limit freediving to 30 meters to avoid nitrogen narcosis.
Study the Area for dangerous flora, fauna, or litter
Freediving without first researching about the waters you are diving in may prove dangerous. Anything from fire corals to jellyfish can cause you harm so do research first where you are going to dive so you can avoid them. You also need to know if the area is notorious for litter such as fishing nets, lines, bottles, or cans. Always carry a knife or line cutter should you become entangled in litter as these can cut you or cause hypoxia.
Smoking and Alcohol
If you are a smoker or consume large amounts of alcohol, especially before a freedive, then you are putting yourself in danger. A freediving session will cause nicotine withdrawal symptoms that become unpleasant and may lead to hypoxia. Alcohol impairs cognitive and motor functions and dehydrates the body. If you plan to freedive, stop smoking overall and never consume alcohol the day before a dive.