Apnea/Freediving

        Freediving, free-diving, or Apnea is a form of underwater diving that relies on divers' ability to hold their breath until resurfacing rather than on the use of a breathing apparatus such as scuba gear. Recognised examples of freediving activities include traditional fishing techniques, competitive and non-competitive freediving, competitive and non-competitive spearfishing and freediving photography, synchronized swimming, underwater football, underwater rugby,[1] underwater hockey,[2] underwater hunting other than spearfishing, underwater target shooting and snorkeling. The term 'freediving' is often associated with competitive breath-hold diving or competitive apnea. However, while some regard freediving as a specific group of underwater activities, for others it is merely a synonym for breath-hold diving. The activity that attracts the most public attention is the extreme sport of competitive apnea in which competitors attempt to attain great depths, times, or distances on a single breath.

                               History

 

       Freediving was practised in ancient cultures to gather food, harvest resources like sponge and pearl, reclaim sunken valuables, and to help aid military campaigns. In ancient times freediving without the aid of mechanical devices was the only possibility, with the exception of the occasional use of reeds and leather breathing bladders.[6] The divers faced the same problems as divers today, such as decompression sickness and blacking out during a breath hold. Because of these dangers, diving in antiquity could be quite deadly.

Freediving for commercial, rather than recreational purposes may have begun in Ancient Greece, since both Plato and Homer mention the sponge as being used for bathing. The island of Kalymnos was a main centre of diving for sponges. By using weights (skandalopetra) of as much as 15 kilograms (33 lb) to speed the descent, breath-holding divers would descend to depths up to 30 metres (98 ft) for as much as 5 minutes to collect sponges.[7] Sponges weren't the only valuable harvest to be found on the sea floor; the harvesting of red coral was also quite popular. A variety of valuable shells or fish could be harvested in this way creating a demand for divers to harvest the treasures of the sea, which could also include the sunken riches of other seafarers. The Ama Divers from Japan began to collect pearls about 2,000 years ago.[8][9]

The Mediterranean had large amounts of maritime trade. As a result of shipwrecks, particularly in the fierce winter storms, divers were often hired to salvage whatever they could from the seabed.[10] Divers would swim down to the wreck and choose the most valuable pieces to salvage. These salvage divers faced many dangers on the job, and as a result, laws, such as the Lex Rhodia, were enacted that awarded a large percentage of the salvage to the divers; in wrecks deeper than 50 feet, divers received one third of the salvage and in wrecks deeper than 90 feet they received half.

Divers were also used in warfare. Defenses against sea vessels were often created, such as underwater barricades aimed at sinking enemy ships. As the barricades were hidden under the water, divers were often used to scout out the sea bed when ships were approaching an enemy harbor. Once these barricades were found it was divers who were used to disassemble them, if possible.[11] During the Peloponnesian War, divers were used to get past enemy blockades to relay messages as well as supplies to allies or troops that were cut off by the blockade.[12] On top of all that these ancient frogmen were used as saboteurs, drilling holes in enemy hulls, cutting ships rigging and mooring. [Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander 2.21]

                        Recrational freediving

Freediving is also a recreational activity, celebrated as a relaxing, liberating and unique experience significantly different from scuba diving. The advantages freediving has over scuba diving are:

  • less equipment to wear

  • greater mobility and speed

  • lower diving costs

  • shorter preparation time

  • no decompression time for deep dives, because the dive duration is so short. Repetitive deep freedives can result in decompression sickness (Taravana).

  • greater visibility (in upwards direction) due to a lack of exhaled air bubbles

  • no distracting sounds like regulator breathing (also available when using a rebreather)

  • greater time in the water since air tank refills are not needed

Experienced freedivers can often go as deep as scuba divers, and sometimes deeper. Recreational scuba diving is generally limited by diver certification to a maximum of 40 meters, for reasons of safety. Recreational divers who dive to deeper depths are generally expected by the certification agencies to have technical diver training, while freediving is only limited by the divers ability and willingness to accept the risks. Recreational freediving is practiced by many people ranging from the average snorkeler to the professional freediver. Recreational freediving is also frequently practiced in freshwater springs due to excellent visibility.

Freediving into spring caverns and caves is very different from diving in the ocean or other open water (water with an unobstructed vertical access to the surface). Even though every spring cave is unique, these are the general differences:

  • A dive light is usually required.

  • The freediver must usually swim laterally to exit the cave before ascending to the surface.

  • The freediver may also pull on large rocks or the cave structure to enter/exit the cave.

  • The freediver must avoid stirring up silt so that visibility is not lost.

  • To conserve energy/oxygen, if possible, the current should be avoided while entering the cave, but it can be used to help exit the cave.

  • If the freediver is penetrating the cave so far that surface light is lost, proper navigation and passage recognition is vital along with a backup dive light.

  • If large air pockets are found inside the cave, they are usually unsafe to breathe from.

  • Usually a monofin is impractical to use due to limited space.

  • Some cave passages are so small that shorter fins are better to use than long freediving fins.

  • The risk of drowning when freediving in an overhead environment is significantly increased. Loss of light, silting, losing the guideline in the dark and any other form of disorientation is likely to have fatal consequences.

The time that a freediver can spend underwater on a single excursion is severely restricted in comparison with scuba, and a considerably greater level of fitness is required for longer breathhold times. A scuba diver generally has sufficient time to recover from a minor disorientating incident in a cave, as there is sufficient breathing gas to perform the recovery procedures. This is not available to the freediver, who has only the oxygen still available in his/her system

                                                                                             Techniques

 

      Breath-holding ability and, hence dive performance, is a function of on-board oxygen stores, scope for metabolic rate reduction, efficient oxygen utilization, and hypoxia tolerance.[19] Various athletes attempt to accomplish this in various ways. By and large most divers rely on increasing fitness by increasing lung capacity, by `packing´ and hyperventilating, both of which increase lung oxygen stores.[20] Needless to say, simple breath-holding is highly effective for increasing lung capacity. In addition, training is allocated to enhance blood and muscle oxygen stores, to a limited extent. A substantial proportion of performance is the result of metabolic suppression and redistribution of blood oxygen stores, the so-called dive response.

                              Training

 

      Training for freediving can take many forms and be performed on land.

One example is the apnea walk. This consists of a preparation "breathe-up", followed by a short (typically 1 minute) breath hold taken at rest. Without breaking the hold, the participant then initiates a walk for as far as they can, until it becomes necessary to breathe again. Athletes can do close to 400 meters in training this way.[citation needed]

This form of training is good for accustoming muscles to work under anaerobic conditions, and for tolerance to CO2 build-up in the circulation. It is also easy to gauge progress, as increasing distance can be measured.

Before competition attempt, freedivers perform preparation sequence, which usually consists of physical stretching, mental exercise and breath exercise. It may include sequention of variable length static apnea, special purging deep breaths, hyperventilation. Result of preparation sequence is slower metabolism, lower heart rate and breath rate, lower level of CO2 in bloodstream[21] and overall mental equilibrium. Failing ordinary warning signals or crossing mental barrier by strong will may lead to shallow water blackout or deep water blackout.[8][22] Trained freedivers are well aware of this and will only dive under strict and first aid competent supervision.[23] However this does not eliminate the risk of deep or shallow water blackout. All safe freedivers have a 'buddy' who accompanies them, observing from within the water at the surface. Due to the nature of the sport, any practice of freediving must include strict adherence to safety measures as an integral part of the activity, and all participants must also be adept in rescue and resuscitation. Without proper training and supervision, freediving/apnea/breath-hold diving is extremely dangerous. The death of Nicholas Mevoli, a diver from New York, highlights the dangers of freediving. He died on 17 November 2013 after completing a dive to a depth of 72 metres.[24]

 

                            Competition

 

Competitive freediving is currently governed by two world associations: AIDA International (International Association for Development of Apnea)[13] and CMAS (Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques – World Underwater Federation). Each organization has its own rules on recognizing a record attempt. These can be found on the website from the respective organizations.

Most types of competitive freediving have in common that it is an individual sport based on the best individual achievement. An exception to this rule is the bi-annual World Championship for Teams, held by AIDA, where the combined score of the team members makes up the team's total points. Another exception is the Skandalopetra diving by CMAS.

 

                     Fiction and documentaries

 

  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck (1947) is a novel about a poor pearl diver, Kino, who finds the 'Pearl of Heaven', which is exceptionally valuable, changing his life for ever. The novel explores themes of man's nature as well as greed and evil.

  • In South Sea Adventure (1952) by Willard Price the Hunt brothers, marooned on a coral island, use free diving to collect both pearls and fresh water.

  • In Ian Fleming's (1964) James Bond novel You Only Live Twice, the character Kissy Suzuki is an ama diver. This connection was also mentioned in the film version.

  • Man from Atlantis was a 1970s TV series which featured a superhero with the ability to breathe underwater and freedive in his own special way.

  • The Big Blue (1988) is a romantic film about two world-class freedivers, a heavily fictionalized depiction of the rivalry of freedivers Jacques Mayol and Enzo Maiorca.

  • Ocean Men (2001) is a documentary film about the art and science of freediving, featuring two of its most outstanding exponents: Francisco "Pipín" Ferreras and Umberto Pelizzari.

  • In the movie Phoenix Blue (2001), protagonist Rick is a musician who freedives competitively.

  • The children's novel The Dolphins of Laurentum by Caroline Lawrence (2003), which takes place in ancient Rome, describes the applications of freediving (sponge and pearl diving), and its hazards, as one of the principal characters, as well as the main antagonist, try to beat each other to a sunken treasure.

  • The Freediver (2004) is a film about a talented female freediver who is discovered and brought to an island, where she is trained by an ambitious scientist to break a freediving world record currently held by an American woman.

  • In the film Into the Blue (2005) starring Jessica Alba, a group of divers find themselves in deep trouble with a drug lord after they come upon the illicit cargo of a sunken airplane in the Caribbean. Jessica Alba is an accomplished freediver, and did much of the underwater work; some other stunts were performed by Mehgan Heaney-Grier.

  • In Greg Iles' novel Blood Memory (2005), the main character Cat Ferry is an odontologist and a freediver.

  • H2O: Just Add Water Series 3 added a freediver (Will Benjamin played by Luke Mitchell) as a regular. Freediving is featured in some episodes.

  • The Greater Meaning of Water (2010) is an independent film about competitive constant weight freediving, focusing on the 'zen' of freediving.

  • In the Canadian television series Corner Gas, the character Karen Pelly (Tara Spencer-Nairn) competed in static apnea, ranking fifth in Canada with a personal best of over six minutes.

  • On a long breath (2015) with the quadruple world champion of freediving Pierre Frolla is an invite to share interactions with wild underwater world in the restricted time of an apnea. directed by Philippe Gerard.[25]

  • In the American television series Baywatch episode "The Chamber" (Session 2, Episode 17), the character Mitch Buchannon rescues a diver trapped 90 feet below the ocean surface, but almost dies while suffering the effects of decompression sickness; decompression sickness is highly improbable following freediving exposure to this depth.

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