This is the final part to my breakdown of techniques and psychology surrounding deep freediving.
As we have proved evident by the content of previous posts, the dive itself is but a small part of achieving your goal, however it is of course the litmus test. When it comes to the crunch, no matter how well you prepare, if you don’t achieve what you set out to do then you can’t help but feel deflated. Lets have a close look at the technique and mental pressures we experience whilst making a dive.
In the previous post we prepared for the dive on the surface, and i skimmed over the final breaths. I have decided to include a very basic final breath tutorial in this post so that no one tries to dive without following at least the most basic of preparatory breathing.
- Breath for approximately 2 minutes, from the belly, all the time focusing on the exhale.
- Keep these breaths relaxed and no deeper than you may do so whilst relaxing in a ‘normal’ situation.
- You are looking at ensuring that the exhale is approximately 2x the length of the inhale. These are not deep breaths, they are simply controlled.
- Start you final breath phase.
- Take a slightly deeper breath in.
- Breathe EVERYTHING out… And i mean everything, until you are having to spit out the last bits of air in your lungs.
- Your final breath in needs to be focused and almost mechanical in its nature.
- Start breathing in from the diaphragm. Keep breathing in from the belly until you can’t get any more air in.
- Shift your focus to breathing in from the chest… keep breathing in until you cant get more air in to the chest.
- Shift you focus finally in to breathing in to the collar and neck… This is a bit abstract I know but it really finalises the breath and ensures you are holding a good posture for maximizing your capacity.
OK…. Now its time to dive.
The duck dive is your first stumbling block. If it goes wrong you can interrupt your whole flow for the dive, it can also take a lot of energy if done incorrectly.
The duckdive can be analysed at length and i wont cover it in this post as it would take ages. It doesn’t hold quite as much potential for danger as a poor ‘breathe up’ so I don’t feel too guilty not explaining it in this post. I will do at a later date though, where i will devote an entire post to the procedure and posturing needed.
Once you have broken the surface and are traveling downwards in to the depths its time to focus on a few basic elements of posture and technique.
Your finning technique has to strike the correct balance between efficiency and power. Freediving fins are long and flexible for a reason, to allow you to deliver huge swathes of thrust whilst using as little energy as possible.
Your fin and foot posture should be as pointed as possible. A fin blade which is very angled (bad) will stab the water rather than displace it backwards (good). Try to keep your whole leg as straight as possible, without locking the knee, keeping a rubbery flex to proceedings but without bicycle kicking in the water.
The amplitude of your kick is the first element to analyse. You are looking for a kick that is about a shoulders width apart. That may sound odd, but imagine the distance between your shoulders…. this is the distance you need to replicate in your kick. So for me my shoulders are about 24 inches across. This is how much distance i want to put in-between my feet, vertically, whilst kicking. This will then give each blade a good angle of attack.
The speed of each kick cycle should be about 1 per second. This will give you a diving speed of about 1m per second. This is in my opinion a good speed to try to maintain throughout the dive. The kicking speed will slow as you get deeper thanks to the assistance of free fall.
Your posture in the water will massively affect the efficiency of your dive. Think of how a seal moves through the water. Is it diving with its fins to its side and its body straight? Or is it diving with fins splayed out and body bent? I think you know the answer….
Keeping streamlined in the water is critical to maximising your efficiency as freediver. Consider every appendage and piece of stray kit (snorkels etc), anything which is sticking out of your profile will impede your progress.
Your head positioning will affect not only your posture but may also affect you ability to equalise effective. Always keep your chin tucked in, as if holding a tennis ball between your chin and your collar. If you are not looking directly at the line, and you are looking more where you are going, you are doing it wrong.
Try this on dry land…. stand upright whilst looking straight ahead. Your back and neck will be nice and straight. Now look up to the sky…. you will feel your back bend a little, therefore you are not straight and streamlined.
Equalise regularly and without straining yourself. Try to develop a pattern of equalising and a speed which keeps you relaxed and on top of it, do not push yourself if you cannot equalise. Always use the frenzel manoeuvre, as featured in a previous post.
As you get deeper you will have to consider the mouth fill technique and you will also start questioning your ability to equalise your mask.
Mask equalisation will take a great percentage of your precious air, so when at depth really ration equalising it. I have dived quite a long way from about 40-60m without really equalising my mask much at all. It may squeeze a bit but it wont kill you. Just enough to push it away a bit should do. But everyone is different, so approach it carefully and with lots of trial and error as your learning methodology.
Succumbing to freefall…
After your point of neutral buoyancy you will start to freefall. Learning to anticipate this point is very important to maximising your depth. You wont need to kick so hard now and you can start to consider saving your energy for equalising. If you stop kicking too soon you could slow to a near stop, which is obviously a bit of an issue!
Once you hit freefall properly you will experience one of the most relaxing aspects of freediving. The feeling of effortlessly flying in to the depths is in my opinion 2nd to none.
Keeping good posture is even more important now, as you will brake your fall by poor positioning.
Hitting residual volume…
One of the biggest barriers to truly deep diving is when you hit your residual volume. This may be unknown to new divers, so I will explain briefly.
Your residual volume the point the point where you have seemingly no more air to equalise with as it has compressed to such a point in your lungs, that you do not have the ability to bring it up in to the hard air spaces in the head/mask. This gives a feeling of a lack of air, severe compression and total density. It is a very obvious sensation and can mark an end to a dive if you cannot get past it.
To break this wall in your depth you will have to either…
A: Increase the flexibility of your diaphragm and chest so you can manipulate more of the residual air for equalisation.
B: Learn to perform the Mouth Fill equalisation technique (ill devote an entire post on this soon)
C: Flood you facial cavities with water (very advanced move… do not do it unless you are a serious top end mega pro diver. I have never done this and to be honest, never want to! Mouthfill takes me deep enough).
Assuming you break this barrier you will freefall quite fast from now on, and you will have to really focus on your equalisation (although it will be required with less frequency)
The most demanding part of any deep dive is maintaining focus and relaxation.
Freediving is unlike almost any other sport i can think of, as to perform to your potential you need to push aside feelings of competitiveness, excitement/ adrenaline and replace them with calm and steady unconscious focus.
I mentioned in a previous post the benefits of learning a mantra. Well this is when you need to use it. Slowly and calmly repeating a calming phrase in your head will assist in maintaining a slow heartbeat and will keep you from over thinking the dive. Remember that your brain is a powerful tool and if overstimulated it will increase your air consumption through mental activity and stressing other body parts. Be calm….
Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water…. Be water my friend.
Do not be tense, just be ready, not thinking but not dreaming, not being set but being flexible. It is being “wholly” and quietly alive, aware and alert, ready for whatever may come.
Bruce Lee (A combination and edit of two quotes which make a lot of sense to a freediver)
The turn and return to the surface…
As you hit your target, grab the line with one hand, let you body fall deeper thereby righting yourself with almost zero effort.
As you start your ascent you will notice the increased effort required as you struggle not only with less oxygen and water resistance but now you are fighting against gravity too.
Many divers consider the return journey the real start of the dive.
Keep calm, do not look at the surface and start ploughing away.
Each stroke takes you closer, don’t panic… you will get there!
As you hit your neutral buoyancy (about 15-8m) you will find that you become lighter in the water and you can relax you kicking a lot. As you become positively buoyant stop kicking altogether and allow yourself to drift effortlessly to the surface.
Your return to the air signals the start of your recovery breaths.
The basic technique is to concentrate on the inhale rather that the exhale. Be fast and forceful on the inhale, ignoring the desire to off gas the excess co2 and focusing on the need to bring in vital 02.
Ill do a detailed recovery breaths tutorial another time alongside a more detailed preparation breaths tutorial.
OK…. So that’s us done and dusted for the deep freediving posts for the moment. I will of course continue to post about specific elements of deep diving, although not in such a chronologically focussed format.
I hope you have found these posts useful but please don’t treat them as a replacement for real one to one instruction from a qualified instructor. I run full certification courses throughout the year and would love to be able to help you realise your potential.
Dive safe people!