Take your breath away - Weekend

Take your breath away

Plunge into the new world of freediving

By Edwin Castillon of LakbayDiva.com

HOW long can you hold your breath?

While reading this article, try to hold your breath until the last letter. Just kidding. But try to hold it as long as you can. At the end there will be some tips on how to prolong holding your breath.

But what is freediving? Is it diving for free? Well, it’s definitely not scuba diving for free. Freediving is where you hold your breath, dive into the water, stay as long as you can, and go deep as you can. It is basically snorkeling, but you go IN the water, not stay ON the surface, and stay long underwater.

How deep IS YOUR LOVE FOR THE SEA? Freedivers explore the seas one deep breath at a time.
How deep IS YOUR LOVE FOR THE SEA? Freedivers explore the seas one deep breath at a time.

Unlike scuba diving, it does not use an oxygen tank and you don’t breathe underwater. Your ability to stay long is determined by the efficiency of your oxygen consumption, strong Mammalian Dive Reflex (MDR), and how well-trained your mind is.

Some of the world-record freedivers can stay underwater for over five minutes, and can go as deep as 100 meters. Imagine that – with just a single breath!

There are different ways to freedive. Most freedivers use bi-fins to increase their thrust underwater, but there are some with just their bare feet. There are others, too, who use weights to sink in the water, like the Samal spearfishers from Samal Island, Davao.

Freediving in Cebu’s seas offers sightings of various underwater creatures
Freediving in Cebu’s seas offers sightings of various underwater creatures

Professional and Recreational Freediving

Internationally, there are competitions on who can stay longer and deeper underwater. There are several disciplines of freediving – diving without fins, diving with fins, diving with weights, among others. Most of them train out in the open sea with a buoy and a weighted dive line.

A more fun way of freediving is just an advanced type of snorkeling.

Instead of just watching the fish and corals from the water surface 10 feet away, you could swim down and take a closer look. As you stay longer underwater, the fish seem to accept your presence and wouldn’t bother you at all.

Wooden fins called “kapay”
Wooden fins called “kapay”

Equipment and attire

There are only three things you need for freediving. These are: mask, snorkel, and fins. It can be just your regular snorkel gears if you have it.

For the outfit, the regular beach attire will do. But it would be best if you wore rash guards and leggings to avoid getting sunburn and jellyfish stings.

Your mask is your window to a different, literally breathe-taking view of the marine life. The snorkel will help you breathe while you rest on the surface of the water as you prepare to dive. And your fins will amplify the power of your kick – with proper finning, you could increase your propulsion three-fold.

Wolfgang Dafert of Freediving-Philippines training a student
Wolfgang Dafert of Freediving-Philippines training a student

Learning to freedive: where?

Freediving-Philippines. Austrian national Wolfgang Dafert decided to call Cebu his new home eight years ago and has been teaching freediving to locals and foreigners alike since. He established Freediving-Philippines and is teaching AIDA freedive courses in Moalboal. AIDA, which originates from France, is an international organization for freediving.

The freediving instructor’s beginner class consists of theory and application – first inside a classroom, then in the water. During the lecture, you will learn about the science of freediving – how you could stay longer underwater and how to deal with the discomfort of your ears as you go deeper. You would also learn the two big No-no’s of freediving, which are:

* Never freedive alone
* Never hyperventilate

Freedive HQ Philippines. Near Vaño beach in Marigondon, Lapu-Lapu City is another training ground for professional freediving: a freedive shop run by Australian couple Mike and Alana Wells. Both skilled Scuba School International (SSI) Freedive Instructors, Mike (the global SSI training director) and Alana hold certification classes inside their cozy office fronting their bigger classroom – the sea. Here, you will learn what happens to your body once you’re freediving, and that your heartbeat decreases as the water touches sensors on your face – a reaction of your body to conserve oxygen.

Best places to snorkel or freedive

Kon-tiki Resort. Just half-an-hour away from Cebu City, the P50 entrance fee lets you enjoy snorkeling or freediving all day. There, you get the chance to experience close encounters with barracudas that prey on sardines that storm along the sea wall. Resident sardines numbering over a hundred thousand have been swimming in the Kon-tiki Reef for several months now and could be spotted at the front of Imperial Palace resort all the way to the waters off Maribago Bluewaters resort.

Moalboal. There are several spots to snorkel, scuba dive and freedive in this quaint town: Magpayong’s Blue Orchid, Tongo’s Turtle Bay Dive Resort and Freediving-Philippines. There’s Pescador Island, too, which sits right in the middle of Tañon Strait, said to be the center of the center of the coral triangle.

The most convenient is at Panagsama or Basdiot where 10-15 meters from the shore, the reef wall can be found, teeming with sardines. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot thresher sharks and sea turtles hanging out along the coral walls.

A key to holding your breath longer is keeping yourself calm, thereby lowering your heart rate. A low heart rate means lower consumption of oxygen. Low consumption of oxygen means you don’t run out of air fast, thereby longer breath hold.

Once you freedive, make sure you don’t take caffeinated drinks such as coffee or soda, like Coke. That will make your heart beat fast, consuming all your precious oxygen when you immerse in the water.

Now here’s a little experiment. Hold your breath as long as you can and time it with a stopwatch:

1. Empty your mind. Don’t think of anything else. Just leave it blank.

2. Breathe in for two seconds and then exhale for four. Your exhale should be twice as long as your inhale.

3. Repeat step two for two minutes.

4. Once the two minutes are up, take three deep breaths that will fill your lungs: exhale twice longer than when you inhale.

5. With your final inhale, fill as much as 90 to 95 percent of your lungs, then time yourself.

6. It would be better if someone would be watching and clocking the time.

Are you ready to be a fish? You could join and message us on Facebook: https://facebook.com/divetabai. Happy swimming!

Did you know?

Fisherfolk in Cebu, as well as from other provinces, practice freediving when they go spearfishing. Ever since, they have fished using this method. To help propel them underwater, they have wooden fins called “kapay,” or improvised flippers where they cut flat, thin wood into oblong shapes. When you buy fish at the market, you’ll notice that some of them have punch holes. These fish were caught by our local freedivers/spearfishers.

What’s there to see?

Let’s find out. The Philippines is part of the rich coral triangle – a global center for marine biodiversity. In one of the researches in mid-2000, it came out that the Philippines is the CENTER of the CENTER of the world’s marine biodiversity. This is due to the higher concentration of species per unit area here than anywhere else, including countries that are part of the coral triangle. In different international studies done, they found out that we are home to:

* 488 species of corals
* 1,755 reef-associated fish
* coral reefs covering 27,000 sq. km. of our seas
* whale sharks, which can be sighted in Central and Eastern Visayas, Southern Luzon, to name a few
* five out of seven types of marine turtles
* 6 species of big whales and 13 species of dolphins

(Photos courtesy of www.LakbayDiva.com)

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