“Freediving is about silence…the silence that comes from within..”

Jacques Mayol

Exploring the depths of the Big Blue on a single breath is an experience often described as magical and even mystical. Silently diving into the ocean free of equipment takes the human mind to a different place, a place where there is no perception of time and where minutes feel like seconds. By offering a privileged non-intrusive way to observe marine life, freediving is indeed the most intimate way to connect with the ocean; there is no other water activity that can get you closer to marine life and to yourself. Freediving is more than pushing your limits to hold your breath longer and go deeper, it is a practice of consciousness and awareness and it is greatly related to a serene state of mind and concentration skills.

Freediving is a human activity as ancient as humanity. Before we are born, we spend 9 months living in an aquatic environment in our mother’s womb and babies keep the ability to instinctively hold their breath under water for up to 40 seconds until they start walking. An evolutionary theory developed in the 20th century – the Aquatic Ape Theory – indicates that our primate ancestors were marine mammals, and the oldest archeological evidence of humans practicing freediving dates more than 7,000 years. Human populations across the world were diving without equipment mainly for food, pearls and corals hunting; underwater endeavors in ancient Greece has been widely described in myths and historical accounts and Japanese ama dive, a traditional fishing practice, dates more than 2,000 years and is still practiced today, mainly by women, who free dive repeatedly 20 meters deep 5-6 hours daily to collect pearls and seaweed.


Did you know?

The word Apnea comes from the Greek “a-pnoia”, meaning “without breathing”. Although the etymology shows no connection to water, this word has become a synonym for freediving.


Human beings and some mammals such as dolphins and whales have a set of reflexes that are activated if we hold our breath or when our face is in contact with water. This diving reflex allows to tolerate low levels of oxygen. As we submerge in the water, our heart rate lowers up to 25%, blood rushes to the core and brain activity is lower, while the spleen releases a large quantity of red blood cells, allowing more oxygen to be stored in the blood. In addition to these instinctive reflexes, freedivers can dive deeper because beyond 10mt, buoyancy reverses and water brings us down as if gravity was reversing. This is known as “the doorway to the deep”.


Published on Gili Life

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