Well, it depends on how you do it. Freediving in variable weight can be a super fun experience or a nightmare for you and the ones around you in your dive spot.
You can do freediving in variable weight to practice your equalization, to gain confidence ascending from a new depth before attempting it in constant weight, or just for the fun of doing something different.
But many people are taking too many risks these days during their variable weight sessions.
Yiiiihaaaaa, drop me with the bottomweight!
Is this the way you normally do freediving in variable weight? So then, let me tell you that you are one step closer to injury yourself, injury someone else or break your mom’s heart.
You don’t believe me, uh? Yes, yes, I know. You are experienced, you have been doing it like this for years, maybe you are an instructor… But have you thought about the following things?
Your trajectory is not vertical and you might hit something
The first problem of freediving in variable weight letting yourself go with the bottomweight is that you don’t go totally vertical during your descent. Your body position and the current will make you drift while you are going down.
And you will not land where you expect to do it. If the bottom is irregular and has depth variations you could end up crashing into a pinnacle, a reef or any other area that is shallower than you target depth.
You might crash into other freedivers
If you dive in a spot with many freedivers around you (like the Blue Hole in Dahab), you will probably have other diving buoys at your left and at your right. A small variation in your descent direction may result in invading their space.
Hitting another freediver who is training in his own line might be unlikely (although not impossible). But banging against a safety diver or an instructor who is around is easier than you think.
Or you might collide with a scuba diver
Wait 3 seconds, don’t call me stupid yet, please. I know scuba divers release bubbles. And I know you know it. And I also know you wouldn’t start your dive when a cloud of bubbles is coming up to the surface.
But, have you though about rebreathers? Yes, those magic devices that release no bubbles… How do you know now there is nobody below you, uh? We have a lot of those sneaky guys here in Dahab. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t have any desire of hitting any of them with my 12 kilos bottomweight…
Have you checked if there is enough depth?
It’s so easy to practice freediving in variable weight with this “set up”, that I don’t see almost anybody checking if the bottom is far enough from their target. Normally, the fellows who dive like this just ask someone if the depth is enough in the place they are.
How fun is going to be to hit your head against the bottom if you put your buoy in the wrong spot?
Bailing out before reaching the target depth
Yeah baby, I’m going for my 80 in variable today. My mouthfill is ready to rock. Warp speed, Mr. Spock! Oh, wait my ear is a bit sticky, it’s hard to equalize it. Hmmm, lets stop here at 27.4 and go back to the surface.
Have you tried to do free immersion on a line that is still being dropped? I haven’t, but my intuition tells me that it’s gonna be a bit difficult to get any traction pulling on a line while it’s being un-braided…
So then, how should you practice freediving in variable weight?
Set up a line
Before starting, drop a line with a light bottomweight. You will be sure that there is enough depth for your dive. And it will serve to mark your position to other divers.
Scuba divers will know there is someone going up and down on that line and stay away. Other freedivers will see you are diving there and will not invade your space.
And, in combination with the next element, it will ensure your dive is vertical and you don’t go drifting away against a reef wall or to a shallower area.
Attach the variable weight to the line
Use a big carabiner to attach the variable weight to the diving line. You will dive along it and go straight to the bottom with no risk of drifting away.
And you can make your start more comfortable with a quick release carabiner. Use it to attach the variable weight to the buoy and open it when you are ready to start your dive. You will be more relaxed during your breathe up, and your buddy won’t have to struggle holding the weight for you.
And remember to use your lanyard!
Last month, we published an article that tells you why you should wear a lanyard in every single dive you do. You can read it here. And freediving in variable weight is not a reason to not use it.
But maybe you are one of those freedivers who claims that the lanyards get always tangled while freediving in variable weight. And they just make everything more dangerous. Maybe they do, if you dive without a proper set up. But if you follow these tips and place your lanyard in the right way, it won’t.
Well, even if you use a proper set up for your variable weight dives, the lanyard might get tangled sometimes. But that’s not a reason to stop using it. Simply, if you are on one of those unlucky days, use your quick release and get rid of it when it happens. And keep it on during all the other sessions.
Freediving in variable weight is safe and fun (if you do it right)
So, if you want to keep yourself and your buddies safe when you do freediving in variable weight, it would be nice to re-think the way you are doing things. A couple of small changes in your set up will make a big difference in terms of safety for yourself and for the others around.
Maybe you are not sure about how to do a safe set-up. Are you willing to learn more about the logistics of freediving in variable weight? Do you want to practice in a controlled environment with an experienced buddy? So then, you can take the SSI variable weight specialty with us. You can book it in any of our freediving schools around the world. Don’t miss the opportunity!