Before my first course, I thought freediving is just about holding your breath, dive down and look around. I knew that there freedivers going deeper than I could imagine and that there was this crazy “no limits” discipline but I never really thought about people going down and up on a rope. Most of the popular videos on Youtube are focused on “snorkeling” or freediving without a rope as well so I haven’t expected it to be like it is.
I arrived in Dahab in February 2013 with one of my best friends Jonas and we still had about a week’s time before our first official freediving course at Freedive Dahab started, so we took our fins (I had small scuba fins) and went freediving on our own. He already had experience and could teach me what he knew so that I managed to dive to around 10/12 meters and have a look around, but I really didn’t feel like going further down even though I wanted to.
On the first day of my course I was already surprised as Jin, our instructor, showed us these yellow floating things to which we were supposed to hold on to on the surface and dive down on a rope that was attached to its bottom. I wasn’t really against this whole new principle, but I thought: “This is not how I thought it will be, but let’s see.”
On the first dives I already noticed that the rope helps a lot when it comes to relaxation and efficiency.
So it didn’t take long to pass my 10/12 meter limit and I soon wanted more.
Now two years later, I often ask divers if they prefer diving with or without the rope. For me it’s pretty clear that I prefer the rope, which of course doesn’t mean that I don’t like playing around while snorkeling and enjoying the marine life.
Freedivers at the Blue Hole (Dahab) breathing up while holding and relaxing at the buoy. Photo credit Linda Paganelli.
The rope makes my diving so much more enjoyable as I am able to concentrate on the small things without having to worry about my safety or that I lose track and drift away or don’t swim straight. This is really important as I probably couldn’t relax without always being sure that I am safe and on the right position. I understand those people who look at it and see it as boring.
Going up and down a rope… where’s the fun in that??
You might as well use your abilities as a freediver and swim through caves, dive with dolphins or take beautiful pictures in the blue. Well yes, to the outside it might look like it. Up and down. Up and down. Compare it to a 100 meters sprint. Sprinters try to run 100 m as fast as they can as freedivers try to dive as deep, far or as long as they can, but it is not important how it looks to the outside it matters way more what happens in the inside. Freediving, also with the rope, is so much more than just an up and down. The whole mental process a freediver goes through during a dive is indescribable. Unfortunately it is easy to get “mentally stuck” with the rope and forget about the pleasure of freediving by getting obsessed with training and depth. The rope is fun but it can get you trapped. If you notice a stagnation in your training progress after intense training for a long time and you feel you’re losing the enjoyment and actually forgot why you freedive, there is nothing better to take a break, leave the line and explore the blue. This will remind you of all the reason why you freedive and will help you to want to go back to the rope and continue your training.
Don’t make the rope your enemy, but use it as a tool
If you really think that you don’t want to freedive with a rope but you still want to enjoy the ocean on one breath don’t make the rope your enemy. Use it as a tool to get better at what you love and make it more enjoyable. Beginners quite often struggle with the equalizations of their ears during their first tries, especially in the upside down position. If this is the case the rope can be of much help, since it allows to perform feet first dives to practice the equalization. You can slowly pull down allowing yourself all the time you need to figure out what to do to make the ears pop and once you have been patient enough you will be able to enjoy the reef upside down and swimming freely as a reward of your consistency and effort. It’s like a football player who goes running to improve his cardio. He might not be in love with running but he definitely is with football and he knows that if he goes running he will eventually progress, become better and enjoy it more as he doesn’t get tired after his second sprint after the ball.
If you are not a rope lover, remember this: a rope doesn’t have feelings and won’t feel bad feeling used and then abandoned, so after it served the purpose you can dismiss it and keep “free” diving free in the blue:)
By Benjamin Boehme, instructor and blogger at Freedive International