What is Freediving?
Freediving, or ‘Apnea’, is the modern form of an age old diving technique used for foraging where dives are made on a single breath (See picture above of a Japanese pearl-diver, known as ‘Ama’). With proper training a freediver can go to considerable depth and, more importantly, in a safe and relaxed manner.
In modern times we have made it a recreational past time, although we still used it for foraging. More commonly though it is recognised as a competion sport, be it depth, swimming underwater length in a pool, known as ‘Dynamics’ or holding your breath face down in water, known as ‘Statics’. But all who do freediving will tell you, it is the most natural and serene way to explore the natural beauty of the underwater world. It is also the ultimate way to free yourself and spend more time enjoying the beauty and silence of water, be it in a pool, lake or in the sea.
Freediving with training is foremost creating the right attitude and paying attention to the limits of your body and mind. The true appeal of freediving is in the silence and calm it brings to people’s hectic lives.
Benefits of Freediving
Fitness and Health
Freediving is a great way to keep fit whilst doing something you enjoy and the health benefits from the techniques you learn and practice in freediving are well documented. It improves cardiovascular fitness, strengthens muscles and helps with flexibility. Freediving requires a ‘whole-body’ approach to fitness and so is useful as a training tool to complement many other sports.
To be successful in freediving relaxation is key and many use freediving as a form of meditation or to complement yoga or mindfulness practise.
Our regular pool sessions are a great opportunity to meet new people and develop friendships. We have a very flexible approach to training session and encourage members to work together to achieve their goals whilst having fun and staying safe. We also have a number of social events throughout the year and members regularly buddy up for diving trips.
Freediving opens up a world of experiences, from swimming with seals in the Farne islands to basking sharks in Scotland, to more exotic encounters with turtles and rays and dolphins. Whilst we do travel abroad to enjoy warmer waters at Apneists UK we are passionate about the UK coastline and the many and varied opportunities it presents for diving wrecks, encountering marine wildlife, and spearfishing.
Benefits to other
Sports & Activities
Snorkelers wanting to improve style and confidence for holidays
Underwater photographers wanting to get closer to marine life
Marine biologists working on research programmes such as Whale Shark tagging
SCUBA divers wanting to improve air consumption, confidence and ability to self-rescue and look after students
Surfers wanting to protect against hold downs and long duration underwater stays and increase confidence, energy and improve safety
Hunters / Gatherers. Spearfishing and foraging / scalloping
Underwater Hockey (Octopush) players
Athletes looking to improve cardiovascular fitness
Benefits to Scuba diving
Water confidence, better understanding of physiology, potentially decreased air consumption, efficiency in finning and equalisation techniques, increased flexibility and fitness. Another alternative on holiday to get into the water when not Scuba diving and experience an underwater world from a very different perspective.
We don’t just have Instructors in the club, we have coaches too. These are dedicated Freedive professionals who can spend time with athletes over long periods of time, help design training plans around their lifestyle, help work on their nutrition, technique, flexibility, fitness and a host of other skill sets in order to create the finished product, a world class athlete. Without doubt Apneists UK deliver in this field through regular coaching programs and we have had 27 National records through the club, currently we have divers who have ranked third and fourth in the world in disciplines in 2014 and we have no end of podium places to our name in competitions over the years and many times athletes have represented their country in world championships.
HISTORY OF FREEDIVING
Freediving is as ancient an activity as humanity itself. More than any other sport, freediving is based on old subconscious reflexes written in the Homo Sapiens genome. For the first 9 months of their lives, humans exist in an aquatic environment very similar to seawater. If a human infant is submerged under water, it instinctively holds its breath for up to 40 seconds while making swimming motions, although we seem to lose this ability as soon as we commence walking. Waking up these reflexes is one of the most important elements of freediving, thus giving humans better abilities to be protected at large depths. The word Apnea derives from the Greek word a-pnoia literally meaning “without breathing”. The origin of this word doesn’t have connection to water, but in modern athletic terminology “Apnea” has become a synonym for freediving, i.e. diving on one breath of air, without using equipment that would make it possible to breathe underwater.
Since 1960, a divisive scientific theory labelled the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, published by the late Sir Alister Hardy, has circled among scholars. From the 1930’s, the Oxfordian Hardy had suspected that humans had primate ancestors more aquatic than previously imagined. He based this on studies of human lack of fur being replaced by a layer of insulating sub skin fat, similar to that of marine mammals rather than modern apes. This theory indicates that swimming and diving was a key ingredient in the eon long development of the Homo family from before Out Of Africa to modern times. The oldest archaeological evidence that would confirm human breath hold diving dates back to at least 5.400 B.C. A Scandinavian Stone Age culture called Ertebølle (in some sources: “Kjøkken-møddinger”) lived at the coasts of Denmark and Southern Sweden, and were believed to have been a culture of shellfish eating freedivers, as witnessed by large excavated kitchen mittens.
Similar and plentiful archaeological proof of diving has been found in the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations dating back to 4.500 and 3.200 years B.C. respectively. On the Mediterranean coast freediving was a regular practice during the classic ages, reported by plenty of myths and legends. One Hellenic myth tells about Glaucus, which could be labelled the first mythological freediver. He was named “The Green Mariner” and the myth recalls that he ate a magical herb, which gave him fins and a fish’s tale. A tale from the Greek-Persian wars tells of a Greek fisherman and his daughter Cyan who at night swam under water, cutting the anchor ropes of the Persian war ships. In another story, the antique Athenians cut the underwater wooden barriers of Syracuse. The legendary philosopher Aristotle is the first to document the common problems associated with diving, e.g. nose bleeding and pain in the ears.
Alexander the Great used divers and even a diving bell during his military campaigns. In the Roman Empire existed a war unit called “Urniatores” with such tasks as recovering lost anchors, removing underwater barricades and other specialized sub aquatic war tasks. In Asia, across the Middle Eastern, Indian and Pacific Oceans, the desire for pearls and other aquatic goods fueled freediving activities for centuries.
Most famous of these freediving traditions is that of the Amas. Today these Japanese and Korean female divers still use a diving technique that are at least 2000 years old. Women between 17 and 50 years of age use rocks to plunge to the bottom where they pick up shells and sea weeds, while diving naked 8 to 10 hours a day in water barely over 10 degrees Celsius.