The practice of freefall in freediving occurs when a free diver reaches a point of negative buoyancy and stops finning or swimming downward, allowing the force of gravity alone to draw the diver deeper.
As a free diver descends in water, the volume of air inside of their body (therefore the volume of the body itself) becomes smaller or more compressed thereby changing the buoyancy of their body. This is explained by Boyle’s Law and Archimedes’ principle respectively.
Every free diver possesses a different degree of buoyancy which is variable to their freediving gear (i.e. wetsuit, weight belt, fins, mask, etc.). A safe freediving practice is to have a positive buoyancy of at least 10 meters because most of the blackouts happen between 10m and the surface. This way, if a blackout does occur, the diver will float to the surface, making a rescue more achievable. We will discuss more safety protocols in a different blog post.
The freefall is a technique used by almost every professional free diver. This is because, during the freefall the diver is not required to use physical exertion to gain distance in depth. This allows the diver to conserve oxygen and energy while decreasing the rate of carbon dioxide production. The freefall can be likened to a depth static, where the individual can focus her or his consciousness on relaxation and equalization.
That being said, there is a proper technique to the freefall. When mastered freefall can lead a free diver into a dream-like or zen-like state. In general, the ideal body position will be as hydrodynamic as possible. Specifically, the head should be in a neutral position to aide in equalization, neither looking down or up the line. The torso parallel to the line. The arms and hands should be streamlined along the side or front of the body. Without fins the legs should be straight with pointed feet, or slightly bent legs with relaxed feet. With fins, the legs should be slightly bent from the hips or knees so that the blade(s) of the fin(s) run parallel with the line (like in the picture).
A good technique will yield a freefall rate of approximately one meter per second (1m/s).
While in freefall the free diver has the option to close their eyes, this furthers the relaxation and therefore oxygen conservation. The current CWT (Constant Weight) world record holder Alexey Molchanov while in freefall has said he only opens his eyes slightly every few seconds. He does this to make sure he has good positioning along the line. Other divers, such as Alenka Artnik, the CWT Roatan 2017 AIDA World Champion freefalls with her eyes closed the entire time and feels the line with her hand. There are many slight variations that are a personal preference for each individual free diver.
In conclusion, the freefall is a very useful and peaceful practice to improve relaxed gains in depth while freediving. It is personally our favorite part of freediving, hence the name ‘Freefall Academy’. We hope you have learned something from this post. Please share an experience or thought with us below in the comment section. Or better yet, come freefall with us in one of our courses here in La Paz. Safe freefalls.
Check out this amazing video of Guillaume Néry freefalling at Deans Blue Hole in Bahamas!