“Why would you want to freedive when you can put a tank on your back and stay down for so much longer?”
This is a question that every freediver is sure to be asked, whether they just signed up for a beginner course or are competitive freedivers with years of experience. It is a question hard to answer and even harder to be fully understood by someone who has never tried freediving for themselves and most likely has no, or very limited, knowledge about the sport.
“They are two very different things”, is what you find yourself trying to explain. “One is a sport which is challenging both physically and mentally whereas the other is a leisurely activity”.
But as you say it you realise that this answer is quite limiting and doesn’t help someone who is unfamiliar with the sport to understand any better what is driving us.
So why do we freedive then? For many reasons, and they are not the same for everyone.
Peace is often felt during freediving. Not to claim that the peacefulness and serenity of the ocean cannot be experienced with a tank on your back for I’m sure it can, but there is something different- more free, about submerging yourself in the ocean with nothing but your own single breath. There is something different to be felt when you are gliding through the ocean rather than simply looking at it. There is something incredibly mind opening to be part of a moment so much bigger than yourself, to connect yourself to nature in a four-dimensional space where time and reality has paused even for a moment just as you have so momentarily paused your breath.
The mental side of freediving is one that people may not necessarily give too much thought if they have never tried it themselves but for many this is the driving factor.
Challenging your mind, challenging your body, and see if once again you can surpass what you thought would be impossible for you to achieve. It is exhilarating when you prove yourself you can do better than you ever thought possible. It can also be frustrating when you don’t succeed, but often this is turned into a positive response, as it can give you the motivation to try again and again until you make it.
For many freediving becomes a lifestyle, because like in many other sports you become conscious of your body and you feel bad when you mistreat it. You then become aware of what you eat, you understand the benefits of being flexible and strong, and the importance of stay cool in stressful situations and how your mental strength helps you not only as a freediver but as a person.
Not only with the ocean and marine life, but also with your buddies. There is a strong connection between freedivers who train together that goes beyond friendship in some ways. When training we feel more selfless, and our buddy’s diving becomes as important as our own. If you are honest about it, you know most people don’t feel that way on many other occasions in life.
During any regular training sessions (doesnt matter if beginner training or deep freediving) there is always at least a safety freediver meeting you on your way up. In this video you get a taste of what this all looks like.
You see now why the question is hard to be fully understood by a non-freediver, so if you want to know why we choose to freedive, you must try it and answer this question yourself 🙂
Written by Vez Maxwell, freediver and intern at Blue Immersion, our freediving school in Koh Tao, Thailand. Working as an intern in Koh Tao means answering lots of questions to people (mostly scuba divers) inquiring about courses.
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