13 Reasons Why Freediving is the Ultimate Sport to Learn Together, According to World-Record Holders

WRITTEN BY MAX PALMER

📸 @morganhalas | 🎨 @Tatiandmax

Diving into deep waters on one breath and without breathing apparatus(oxygen tank) is referred to as 'freediving.'


Freedivers use inward control, self-discipline, and understanding of body limitations to descend into the ocean while holding their breath until they resurface. Freediving is a recreational, competitive sport, and a way of life for some fishermen and women around the world. What most don't know is that even in the most intense of world competitions, where freedivers are sometimes reaching depths of 700ft underwater, they are ridiculously calm and safe the whole time.


Recently, Tatiana & I had the opportunity to learn how to freedive in Koh Tao, Thailand, with professionals and the all-around cool folks at Apnea Total. Typically, when Tatiana & I travel, we try to learn something new; it's our favourite thing to do while travelling. Out of the dozens of activities over the years, none have evolved our relationship and ourselves so suddenly and impactfully as freediving. I believe freediving is an excellent activity for a couple looking to grow individually and together while travelling the world and enjoying the deep blue sea.



Below are the 13 reasons why you should consider learning freediving together.









1. Conquer your self-limiting beliefs TOGETHER


Big shark + no oxygen + no protection? Would you freak out? Eusebio & Christina Saenz de Santamaria show you don't have to 📸 @oneocean_onebreath | oneoceanonebreath.com

You may firmly believe a lot of things that hold you back.

Some commons self-limiting beliefs:

"I'm too old."

"I don't have enough experience."

"I don't have the right tools to start."

"I can't swim deep underwater."

Guess what? Beliefs are not facts.

You believe you can hold your breath for 45 seconds or so. However, after a session of breathwork training with freediving professionals, you'll quickly find yourself holding your breath 2-4X what you once thought you were capable of a mere hour ago. Imagine what other boundaries you can overcome within a short training time or restructured mindset. That's a powerful lesson you'll learn in day 1 of your freediving.


The experience of taking a reality you once held to be true being shattered in mere minutes is a powerful example that can be applied to your relationship.


Perhaps you believed "all men in my family cheat on their wife," or "I'll never find the right person" as it's the only truth you have seen. Yet, after some mind shifts, challenging training, and maybe self-development work, you may find yourself sipping some chai at the ripe old age of 102 on your vacation home's porch reflecting on your good life with your partner.


Nothing is more limiting than the belief you put on yourself.


Think of those enormous elephants you see at the circus, or at some tourism-driven elephant 'sanctuaries' in South East Asia. You may not know that since the captured elephant's birth, they are tortured and beaten to believe they are inferior to their much smaller human captors. When the elephants grow to full size, they believe, without a doubt, that their captors are stronger than them. Thus, they never truly learn their own potential; it was limited from birth. Weird comparison, I know, however, when you learn to free dive together correctly and with trained professionals, you learn what both of you are really capable of and push past those self-inhibiting beliefs. You may have believed you cannot go too deep because of ear pain, yet with the guidance of trained professionals, you can conquer those equalizing complications with systems and courage.


2. Focus on yourself BEFORE your relationship


"In freediving, you have to work on yourself since it's only you who knows what your heart rate is underwater or how much oxygen you have left. All the meditative and relaxation practices inevitably lead to a lot of reflection, and it's kind of like working on yourself first before your relationship. When you embark on that journey together, it is subconsciously saying: "even though we are together, I support and respect your needs to work on yourself", because that's half the sport."


- experienced freediver and world traveller, Frankie J Qian


3. Foster deeper intimacy and understanding


@Suahuatica | suahuatica.com

Learning your partner's limits builds understanding, respect, and intimacy. Learning how to freedive with your partner, you gain knowledge about your partner's body and mind. Additionally, it's encouraging to have a partner by your side to share your improvements and experiences with.

When we freedive together the intimacy of pure connection increases. Nothing else matters, it is you and I in the vast ocean. While freediving you realize you can set your limits of the day but ultimately you are limitless, supporting your partner with care, trust and sense of safety, you can provide the best environment to go beyond the limits. When I freedive I find my real me without judgments, negative emotions or any unnecessary noise in the mind. When my partner [Will] meets me on the way up to the surface he can see me through my eyes and without words he tells me you are safe “amor”, I’m here if you need me, keep on going , I totally get you, Moni, my love I’m here for you. At that moment we become one with the water.
- Monica Ganame, co-founder and instructor trainer at Apnea Total, one of the world’s largest certifying freediving organisations

"Freediving with my partner has been an adventure we didn't expect to love. I have always been fond of swimming and snorkelling. He was not so confident. Now we both love freediving. Knowing that he is nearby, watching, or taking videos while I dive gives me confidence and vice versa for him. Talking about how we both have improved is an enjoyable and lengthy conversation about how we progressed up until our recent dive. "


- Mika González, traveler, blogger, mermaid, frequent freediver


4. Gain more insights into yourself and learn what makes you tick


@Suahuatica | suahuatica.com

In a world full of distraction and information, it's hard to know what’s going on inside and what makes you tick. Have you ever heard about the ‘world's most quiet room’ built by scientists? It's so quiet that you can listen to and observe your heartbeat. When you freedive, you have no distractions or information outside of yourself. You'll feel your heartbeat, the air in your lungs, the nervous system, and your mind go between the states of calm and chaos.


By only having yourself give feedback on pressure, fear, breathing, lung capacity, and mindfulness, (all while being underwater), you experience yourself alone on a highway straight to self-awareness. I immediately learned that if I move slower, I can actually go farther. I learned if I close my eyes, I get less nervous, and I learned if I look where I am going, I get too excited and waste precious energy. Applying this insight to your life and your relationship is invaluable.


The next time you feel an argument stirring with your partner—just remember what you learned in freediving. Check your internal gauges, consider your diet, your workload, how much you slept, how many Facebook conspiracy videos you watched that day, and stop mid-argument, and realize, it's nothing to do with the relationship, you just need to drink more water, have a nap, and get some exercise.


5. Learn breathing techniques that help relieve stress


IG @Andrew Rae

I couldn't fall asleep a few nights ago due to some work and personal life overload. After trying to drink soothing tea, read a bore of book, try a meditation app, I was still wired. So, as a last-ditch effort, I tried the same breath work learned while free diving.

Inhale for ten seconds. Fill your stomach, then your lungs to max capacity. Hold. Then exhale until empty. Repeat 10-however many times you need until relaxed.


Within 5 minutes or so, I dove deep into slumber with ease.


6. It's cheap and requires little to no gear to buy/bring


As a couple, we travel often, and when we do, we pack light, without any heavy gear or clothes that can't fit in one carry on each. The minimal freediving set up is ideal for carry-on luggage practitioners like us.

"Many of my clients continue to freedive long after their training since it's so easy to start and requires little equipment, you can easily bring and do it just about anywhere."

- Sam Henry, freediving professional, educator, founder | Fathom Freediving Bali


7. It's safer than running or riding a bike


There have been more than 50,000 competitive freedives worldwide, and there has only ever been one recorded death in a competition. Now, 1 out of 50,000 dives is an incredibly low number. So how is this possible? How is the competitive freediving death rate so low?


Interestingly enough, the Australian Freediving Organisation noted that sports such as running, cycling, and scuba diving have a higher death rate than competitive freediving. Taking a proper freediving course, following the rules, never diving alone, and staying within your limits makes freediving one of the safest sports, especially when appropriately practised recreationally. However, when not done correctly, recreational freediving can be extremely dangerous. The death rate in competitive freediving is roughly 1 death in every 50,000 competitive dives. As for recreational freediving, the number is much higher, sitting at about 1 in 500. This usually happens when someone is poorly trained, alone, and venturing into underwater caves, reefs, or dangerous situations.


8. Learn to relax in stressful situations


@Suahuatica | suahuatica.com

*Before you read the next bit, it's crucial that I clarify that I was adequately trained by some of the most thoughtful and technical and qualified teachers on this planet. There was absolutely nothing ignorant in this activity, I was adequately trained, understood all the body limitations and had safety precautions in place with my professional coach monitoring nearby*


The closest thing to an 'aha' moment of pure transcendence I ever felt was on day 2 of training. I just swam down without any gear or oxygen tanks to about 65 feet below the surface, a depth I never felt comfortable, even as an advanced trained scuba diver with oxygen tanks. The depth that just the day before seemed impossible to reach with no equipment.


I closed my eyes, calmed my mind, and felt nothing but pure bliss. Learning that my facial nerves send messages to my brain to not open my mouth, so I won't drown. Yep, you naturally will not open your mouth, regardless of depth. That is why babies utilize their primal breathe hold reflex underwater. Knowing that I can hold my breath about 2-4x the current time I am down there, so I am safe, I will not drown, I will not pass out, and I am relaxed. No struggle for air, no fear, no nothing. After a few moments of peace, I slowly worked my way back to the surface to come back as a different man that went down 1 minute ago.


To be at a place, I would have considered the definition of anxiety-inducing, yet be the calm I wished to be, was the best feeling ever. Whenever I find myself stressed, I mentally go down about 65 feet and find relaxation, knowing I will get over whatever is stressing me, and I will resurface safely.


9. Demonstrates the healthy amount of support needed within a relationship

@freediversam | fathomfreedive.com

If you relied on your partner to get you up and down every time, you are not freediving. Your codependent-diving. Codependency is relying on your partner for all needs and support. It creates an unhealthy environment nobody gains from. In freediving, you are 100% in control of your limits, and your dive buddy, or partner, is there for you near the surface. Statistically, almost all free diving accidents happen near the surface, described as 'shallow water blackout.' That is where your dive buddy is waiting for you to save you if needed. By your partner being where it is most critical and not hand-holding you the entire journey, you're allowing each other to be free and improve. In life and love, your partner does not need to hold your hand on every challenge you face, they stay nearby, there only if you need them.

"Alone time is an essential for some, like myself, to nurture mental health and keep a relationship strong. If I don't get alone time, I get irritable. Resentment that can potentially accumulate if no personal time is given. Clingy, co-dependent relationships are also not healthy. When we are freediving, we meet each other at 15m on the way back up, we do things properly. However, as I said, I love being alone. I love the time at depth when I am alone, perhaps during a deep hang. It would be a completely different experience to have someone with me the whole time. That's my deep Sam time, brief but powerful and therapeutic, with my partner there to escort me on my way back up."

- Sam Henry, freediving professional, educator, founder | Fathom Freediving Bali


10. Gives you an incredible reason to travel


@Suahuatica | suahuatica.com
"The best thing about having a life partner who freedives is we can plan all our holidays around freediving - dove in Amed, Gili Air, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Taiwan, San Diego."

- Raymond Ko, world traveller, freediving instructor after two decades of working in finance | Freedivenomad.com

"The time before and after freediving is so much more enjoyable when you have a partner to do this with. The exploration, the hikes, the boat-trip, sharing the same desires. It really is the ideal lifestyle for a couple!"

- Micheal DK, professional photographer, freediver | @Suahuatica | suahuatica.co

"We can plan trips that revolve around good freediving locations. We both get a lot of happiness and satisfaction from the ocean. It's a great feeling to share this passion with someone you love. It also allows me to freedive more often and easily, as I always have a safety buddy.

- Sam Henry, freediving professional, educator, founder | Fathom Freediving Bali


11. It can create a fresh dynamic in the relationship


@pavelhosnedlphotography

"I think for a lot of couples it can create a strange dynamic, for one to teach the other, but it never has for us. He [her partner and professional record holding freediver, Harry Chamas] is so patient and has so much knowledge, he enjoyed teaching me and seeing me improve and seeing my love for the sport grow. I love seeing the passion he has in his teaching and have always felt very safe, which made me progress quickly. We make a good team."

- Charly Stinger, freediving instructor and educator | @freedivepassion | www.freedivepassion.com



12. Freediving can work as a form of couple's therapy

@kysondana
"My girlfriend and I find that freediving together works as a sort of couple's therapy. We could be fighting literally up until the moment we get in the water, but once there, it all fades away. I think this is down to a combination of factors. Maybe the biggest one is the calming nature of being under the sea, or really in any body of water. You also understand the massive responsibility of keeping your partner safe, and in comparison to that, any minor squabbles seem almost irrelevant. And finally, while you need to communicate when freediving together, a lot of this is non-verbal communication, so you almost have some time apart while still being together. Freediving takes teamwork and cooperation and makes for a great distraction from all the stresses of everyday life.


- Ben Schaye, frequent traveller, entrepreneur | spearfishingspot.com



13. You'll meet cool couples also interested in self and relationship growth

Meet new friends
Monica Ganame, Co-founder of Apnea Total Koh Tao with her co-instructor/boat captain, and partner, Will.

Take this article as an example: when we reached out to the freediving community, we received dozens of enthusiastic answers from professionals, amateurs, and everything in between. When I looked into the people sending me responses, they were world record holders, experienced travellers, entrepreneurs, professional athletes, and overall, cool people. The same goes for when you travel to new locations to freedive; you'll meet the most unique and neat couples who lived all over the world and decided to run a dive team on the island or coastline. In Koh Tao, Thailand, we learned that two of our coaches (and a couple) Monica & Will are from two different sides of the planet, freediving helped bring them together. They're doing what they love, in the ocean every day, teaching travellers and professionals from around the world looking to improve themselves...AND Monica has the cutest dog helping out on the boat and leading customer service.




Thank you to Max Palmer for sharing his article with Kapuhala. The article was originally published on COUPLE SUMMIT.




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