Almost 72% of the world is covered by water, and it seems a waste not to explore it. Champion freediver, William Trubridge, who holds eighteen World Records and was the first person to break the 100m barrier unassisted, shares his top tips for first-time freedivers.
#1 Don’t Gulp
On the freediving courses that I run the most common mistake I see people make is hyperventilating. People believe that breathing more quickly or deeply will allow them to store more oxygen in their body, but this is not the case at all. It’s more important to be completely relaxed in the preparatory phase, breathing naturally with the diaphragm, just as you would if you were sleeping or reading. The last breath, before you go under, should be a full one but you still need to focus on relaxation in order to ensure you are completely filling your thorax. And definitely don’t let any air out during the dive!
#2 Do Practice
I was freediving to 15m by the time I was eight years old, competing with my older brother to see who could bring back a stone or handful of sand from the deepest depth. To say we ‘learnt’ to freedive is generous, as we didn’t have a clue what we were doing. We had to use our boat’s depth sounder to verify exactly how deep we were going. If you want to hold your breath longer, put in the practice in a swimming pool or the ocean, with another person for safety. I also do ‘dry training’. There is a lot we can do on land to help you perform better underwater, from strength training with a TRX trainer to yoga and dry exhale breath holds.
#3 Embrace Simplicity
I also teach a ‘no fins’ freediving course where, as the name suggests, your only equipment is your mind and body. No fin is the purest form of freediving and the best measure of our species’ true aquatic potential. It also offers the most intimate contact with the water because there is no intermediary, such as a fin or rope, with which you are communicating your energy to the ocean. You are literally grasping handfuls of water with every stroke, and can sense the delicate fluctuations in speed and drag that happen while swimming. I highly recommend it as a meditative experience.
#4 Program Your Subconscious Mind
The brain uses a surprising amount of our oxygen supply. It accounts for only 2% of our body weight, but at rest it consumes 20% of the oxygen we inhale! A lot of people don’t realise that level can change dramatically, depending on how you’re using the organ. If you can slow the rational mind, or even enter into an ’empty mind’ state, then you will use your oxygen stores more slowly in a dive. On our course, I teach people to operate on autopilot, rather than overthinking what they’re doing, which saves on oxygen consumption. The subconscious mind is often quicker and less error-prone than the rational mind too.
#5 Invest In Tech
As an ambassador for Suunto, I use gadgets to help me to train smarter. Suunto depth gauges are invaluable to my training. I depend on the depth alarms during my ascent to know how far away I am from the bottom. But, the greatest benefit comes from being able to download and analyse dive profiles, which allow me to see small differences in speed, stroke count and timing, or how different variables influence performance. I use a Suunto D6i in all my deep dives. If you think you want to to make any kind of underwater activity a regular hobby, it’s worth the investment.
#6 Find Your Passion
I enjoy being in the water in any way. When I have the opportunity I enjoy sailing, windsurfing, SUP and bodysurfing. Spearfishing is a way to provide sustainable and ethical seafood to my table. Freediving would definitely help swimmers with breath control, and I’ve seen many cases of surfers benefiting from freediving techniques also. If you know you can hold your breath for three minutes you’ll be able to stay calmer and more relaxed in a hold down. Personally that was never my problem – it’s balancing a small board on a big wave that gets me!