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Dangers of Freediving

   February 10th, 2020   Posted In: Articles  

Dangers of Freediving

Freediving, as the name implies, is the act of diving underwater literally whenever and wherever you want. People go freediving in the ocean, lakes, rivers, pools, and anyplace with a deep body of water. Some freedivers can descend past 100 to 200 meters (300 to 700 feet)  without SCUBA gear. Can it be dangerous to freedive? Yes, unfortunately, it can be dangerous to freedive without the proper precautions and equipment because it is so easy to do.

To avoid freediving risks plan ahead, always go swimming with a buddy, and consider taking a professional course from an experienced instructor. Check out these other risks of freediving and more ways to protect yourself.

Freediving Dangers

The dangers of freediving can stem from environmental hazards, health conditions, pressure and equalization issues, blackout, dehydration, and more. Shallow water blackout is the result of a lack of oxygen to the brain known as hypoxia. Hyperventilating, pre-dive exercise, poor breathing techniques, and changes in pressure as divers ascend all can contribute to blackouts. This is one of the main reasons you want to go with a dive buddy who can keep an eye on you. Many freediving blackouts can occur during ascent to the surface or at the surface around 5 meters or less than 16 feet.

dangers of freediving

When done properly and safely, freediving lets you see the beauty of the underwater world.

When a freediver has a blackout they need to be rescued immediately or they can drown. Related to this issue is buoyancy control or the use of weights and floatation devices. Newer divers and those who do not attend the appropriate training may take on too much weight to counteract buoyancy. Pressure changes at lower depths can reduce a divers buoyancy meaning they might not float to the surface if they lose consciousness. Underlying health issues, medication, smoking, stress, poor diet, and lack of sleep may also increase freediving risks.

Health Risks of Freediving

Another major risk of freediving is damage to your body due to pressure changes and equalization issues. Freedivers, especially those that use certain equipment like masks and dive hoods, must be careful to equalize or risk possible barotrauma to their eyes, ears, or sinuses. The air in the mask and space between your eardrums and dive hood could possibly be blocked by that equipment and must be equalized during the dive. Freedivers do not have to worry about pressure changes as much as SCUBA divers who breathe compressed air while diving. However, pressure increases the deeper a diver goes and this has an impact on your body and internal organs.

More Dangers of Freediving on Health

Other issues such as colds can block the sinuses and lead to damage. This is similar to what is experienced on airplanes when your ears get plugged or “pop” when they equalized on ascent and descent. Another issue for divers at depth is nitrogen narcosis. This can impact everyone differently but may have effects similar to being drunk. Nitrogen narcosis may alter a divers consciousness and lead to errors in judgment underwater. Health is a major issue when freediving. If you have any concerns about your ability to freedive safely please consult with a medical professional first.

Those with heart, lung, blood pressure, diabetes, seizure, or other medical conditions especially should be wary. Other health issues can occur while freediving such as hypothermia or when the body temperature drops too low. The opposite is also true with heat exhaustion and heat stroke or dehydration. Cramps could also strike while a diver is returning to the surface or swimming to safety.

More Freediving Dangers

Other freediving dangers include environmental issues like underwater sea life. The ocean and many bodies of water have amazing sights to see just under the surface like coral and kelp forests. There are also hazards such as predators and poisonous creatures. Lionfish, cone snails, coral snakes, jellyfish, and more can all be potentially lethal.

Freedivers should also be wary of hazards such as underwater debris, fishing lines, cables, and even trash. To avoid being tangled up underwater many divers carry a dive knife to cut their way to freedom. You should carefully consider what equipment you take freediving. The right wetsuit can help you retain body heat and also provide buoyancy. Dive boots can help keep your fins in place and also help when crossing sharp rocks or coral. You may also want to bring dive gloves for a variety of reasons.

How to Avoid the Dangers of Freediving

There are many ways to avoid the dangers of freediving. First, prepare and plan ahead. You may want to take a course with a professional. Also, pick your dive spot carefully and be prepared to deal with underwater currents or tides. Train your body on how to dive correctly with the right breathing techniques. Don’t hyperventilate and don’t exercise before freediving because of how it impacts your body’s oxygen supply. Stretch before your dive, stay hydrated and follow a healthy diet. Know your limits and only push them with appropriate safety measures in place to protect yourself in a worst-case scenario.

The right equipment can also go a long way, although you do not need much to freedive, and you can easily rent gear. This can also lead to problems such as wondering if the person who rented a wetsuit before you urinated in it and how strict the rental company’s cleaning policy is. You can avoid that problem entirely with your very own affordable wetsuit and other dive gear though.

Sam has served as a U.S. Marine and loves to travel and experience new places. He started Scuba diving in 2004 while working on a dive boat and made hundreds of dives around the Pacific Ocean. Sam completed his MBA in 2017 and stared freelance writing full time. You can often find Sam writing, practicing with his local fencing team, or out exploring.

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