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Freediving – Will it always remain a niche sport?

 

Freediving has always be shrouded in mystery. The ‘apparent’ superhuman ability to remain in an alien environment with no external support for extended periods of time tends to leave onlookers shocked, surprised and just a little impressed.

From the very beginnings of this sport many of its truths have been closely guarded secrets, fostered by the desire to protect productive fishing grounds and a general wish to keep it a niche sport, for whatever reason.

A lot of freedivers think of their sport as something quite special,something beyond the ordinary, a sport for people with a greater understanding of their body and the environment around them.

This of course has valid roots and in many respects very true. Freediving  by its very nature is difficult to master and is full of barriers which could stop it becoming as popular as it deserves. For example, to watch a top level diver ready themselves for a deep dive is, to the uninitiated, a confusing and almost coded amalgamation of meditation, yoga and athletic preparation. Dont you however feel daunted by the idea of skiing down a black run? Skiing down a near vertical slope at 70mph is only better understood by the general population as there is a broad and inclusive nature to the attitude of the early education and information that surrounds it and the attitude of the participents (in general). Don’t forget that more people have access to the sea than the slopes and its a lot cheaper to kit yourself out.

 

There is also a general feeling that freediving is only a sport for the super fit, the super zen or the super stupid!

As freedivers we know that this really isnt the case. Freediving is simply another sport. Yes it does provide a sense of oneness with the water and your body, but is it any more elation than a mountain climber feels as they reach the summit? Yes it requires peak level fitness to achieve great success, but does one need to be any healthier than a marathon runner? Perhaps its because we need to harmonise normally distinctly separate skills to break the barriers which we face in the sport?

Not everyone is happy with the increasing popularity of the sport. A few come up with all sorts of reasons why it needs to remain niche, but you know what? This is only fear talking. They are scared that the general public will discover that we are not in fact superhuman, just that we are trained athletes, and that almost anyone can become a freediver to some degree. They are scared that dive sites will become ‘crowded’ with freedivers (very unlikely… the ocean is a big place). They are scared that they are perhaps not as good as they think they are, and that if opened up to the world we will discover divers, amongst the wider pool, that can far exceed anything we have seen to date!

Some of us maintain the impression that it is a sport for only the godlike by mistake. Just by our subconscious attitude to new divers or by trying to shock and impress with seemingly impossibly simple ‘deep’ dives. Ask your self how many times you have  done a deep dive just to impress some passing scuba divers, or a group of snorkeling holiday makers? So many of us are guilty of it, myself included,  and its not something to beat your self up about, but its a small part of the overall slightly supercillious attitude which we have a tendency to fulfill.

I believe its so important for us all, as practising freedivers, to help push this sport in to the mainstream and its only through education and a welcoming attitude that we can ever attempt to do so…. I can almost hear some of the winces, as people hear the word ‘mainstream’! But be not afraid my fellow apneists, think of the positives. Better education, more financial support for competitions and top divers, better equipment and more locations devoted to breath hold diving and perhaps the best side affect… more awareness for ocean conservation. What’s not to welcome there?

Lets welcome new people in to the sport with open arms. Lets drop the barriers of exclusivity and intrigue so that new divers can experience what is in my opinion… and yours…. the greatest and most fulfilling sport on earth.

If you want to join the revolution then why not come on a course?

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