As soon as a conversation about freediving begins, two things usually arise. People often ask, “How long can you hold your breath?” or “How deep can you dive?” I find the answers so far have been, “Long enough,” and “Deep enough for the goal.”
By Scott Parent.
People also ask if it’s dangerous. Not unlike anything else we take up in the outdoors, “It can be.” There are inherent risks involved. So when we explore the questions of how long and how deep we dive, we have to weigh our experience level, just like any other outdoor activity. To say that I have dived to a certain depth does not mean I will be able to reach that depth again tomorrow in different conditions. For the beginner, do not worry about how far or how long.
We should not be exploring our limits without proper support systems in place. To introduce yourself to freediving (also known as breath-hold diving) it is best to learn from someone who is qualified to teach you. Freediving is not required to be deep and dangerous. The golden rule is having a good time, on and in the water. Stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) are easy to anchor close to dive sites, and can raft up easily. They are much easier to remount on-site, and can be trusted not to capsize while you’re in the water.
The intro to freediving begins with snorkelling. Where SUP, snorkelling and freediving meet is the surface of the water, so let’s start there.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A SUP SNORKEL
- Never go SUP snorkelling alone. That being said, large groups tend to make more distractions and increase the hazards. Best to keep your group numbers down. Groups of three work very well, with two in the water at a time, and one on watch.
- Assuming you and your partner have basic SUP and snorkelling skills, you will know what safety equipment is mandatory (Check tc.gc.ca, Safe Boating Guide). Be sure to follow all regulations that apply to your location. Toss in an extra throwbag with 50 feet of buoyant line, a brightly coloured buoy, and an anchor.
RELATED: HOW TO PREPARE FOR AN OVERNIGHT SUP ADVENTURE
- Tie your anchor to the end of your line before you depart from shore and secure both to your board before you start to paddle out. Lower the anchor in a slow controlled fashion while lying on your belly. Do not let your anchor come into contact with features such as shipwrecks or geologic formations. Guide it down until you feel the bottom.
- Raft your boards together. You can do this with extra ties between deck lashings and leash loop attachments. Or you can use a cam strap wrapped all the way around the centre of the two boards.
- Keep organized on deck and secure any loose items before you enter the water, including your lifejackets and paddle.
- Wear a wetsuit if cold is an issue. On Georgian Bay most likely it will be. Also bring a re-warming kit equipped with dry clothing layers easily accessed during the excursion.
- Select your site with your group’s abilities in mind, as well as the conditions of the day. Do not go pitching your anchor into murky depths without knowledge of what is below you. Professional deep-water freedivers bring large support teams and have built up their knowledge of the inherent risks involved. Best to start SUP snorkelling with shallow-water drills in protected waters where you can dial in your approach and raft systems. Practice safe snorkel use and once again, seek instruction if you’re unsure what that entails.
- Safety, safety … safety. Anytime you’re diving with use of ropes, either attached to anchors or as secure lines, always be aware of them. Ropes can become deadly snakes in the water. Always carry a knife to cut the rope quickly if you need to. A final piece of advice for the beginner and adept alike: Stay aware of the world around you. Getting lost in the moment is a natural effect of SUP snorkelling; boat traffic and changing weather are two reasons to stay observant. After you exit the water and re-warm yourself, equip yourself once again for the paddle in, secure all loose ends, and glide on.
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