Imagine going under the waves. Swimming with the fish. Feeling like a sea otter. Underwater acrobatics. Exploring a new world. Maybe even getting some really good meals too.
Now imagine you don’t need expensive equipment or any classes. Just the will to do it and a few pieces of gear.
You could go explore that brave new world under the waves and all you have to do is hold your breath. It’s called freediving.
Fun on the Great Lakes
What is freediving?
Freediving or breath hold diving is simply going underwater while holding your breath. No air tanks needed. You can stay down as long as you can hold your breath.
Some people are better than others. A lot better.
"The record holder, Herbert Nitsch, can hold his breath for a little over 9 minutes."
That's not a misprint or typo. Over 9 minutes on a single breath. And went to a depth of over 800 feet.
To put this in perspective, only 4 divers have gone deeper than 560 feet and 2 died trying. So yeah, he’s something of a mutant. I can hold mine for about a minute and a half, maybe 2 on a good day.
But times like that are for the pros and record setters. You don’t have to be either to enjoy the undersea world without scuba gear. You know all those times you swam underwater. That counts. Look at that you’re good at this and didn’t know it.
Here's the truth about most things outdoors "You are supposed to enjoy it. You don’t have to set records to have fun. As long as you’re out there doing what you can and enjoying it, that’s a win in my book. Write it down in your book as one too.
What do I need?
This is one activity that needs very little gear. Goggles are fine to explore a little underwater world. A mask is better. Then you can add a snorkel and fins.
Don’t forget the bathing suit, this is a family-oriented article.
But once you get comfortable with the fins and mask and snorkel it might be time for something a little more serious but a little more rewarding. If you like to eat seafood that is. I do. Especially in the summer. Seafood and salads are a big part of my summer diet.
I grew up in the south along the Gulf Coast. It was too hot to eat anything else. An occasional piece of red meat, whatever was on sale.
I’m not off topic. I’m headed to surf and turf. Yummy!!! That’s what you could be eating when you start spearfishing. Shellfish, clams, fish, depends on what’s in the water where you go. Check the regulations before you go off poking at things not allowed. Respect the outdoors and the outdoors will respect you.
Competition Free Dive
So, you’ve got your mask and fins and you’ve gotten pretty comfortable holding your breath and swimming around underwater. You’re ready to get a spear but which kind.
There are basically 3 types of spears
- Handheld - Hold it in your hand and thrust at fish or shellfish, can be used above the water too, like gigging flounders, or spearing fish in the shallows; This is where it started
- Sling (Hawaiian sling) - A lot like handheld; You still hold it in your hand, but it has a cord that goes around your wrist. It’s usually some type of rubber; very elastic rubber; you push your hand up the spear making the band stretch; when you release it, it shoots forward. Not a lot of range but better at hitting fast moving fish than the handheld
- Ones that shoot - You’ve seen them in the movies; probably used wrong but the principle is the same; works like a crossbow; has the most range of any of the spears; freediving spearfisherman use these on bigger fish; Just be careful; a bad shot won't kill it and it can drag you away; I prefer slings; But I’m not trying to set records; just have fun and get a good meal occasionally
The main thing you have to do to get good at spearfishing is practice. Perfect practice makes perfect. That’s a joke. There is no such thing as perfect. Just have fun with it. Be careful too.
One of the best things about breath hold diving can be swimming down to get a closer look at the wildlife. They don’t swim away as quickly when you're holding your breath. The noise from scuba startles most creatures under there. They tend to keep a little distance. You can get pretty close to the fish freediving.
A snorkel helps out with this. You can swim on the surface while looking down. When you see something that calls for closer inspection. Down you go. Look around a bit. Return to the surface and repeat.
In case you don’t know, all this underwater activity is great exercise. It works muscles you don’t even know you have yet. But you will. Just wait till that third day.
It’s also one heck of a calorie burner. The best part of it is you won't even realize your sweating. I don’t know if you really do. But I do know it burns off the extra calories we’ve all been carrying through the winter. Quickly. But in a lot more fun way than going to the gym.
I can promise you that you will never regret trying this. Life is different under the waves. It really is another world. We know more about the surface of Mars than we do the depths of the ocean.
You won't be going that deep in one breath, but it might open your eyes to why we need to. And why we need to protect our oceans and waterways. Most of our planet is covered in water. It needs to be preserved. It needs to be enjoyed. It needs to be cherished. Mostly it needs to be protected. Once you see it you’ll understand why. So I hope you do soon. See the world under the waves.
Enjoy the outdoors. Life is out here!