Want to get the best out of your spearfishing? We recommend you take freediving courses with our partners Go Freediving.
Go Freediving are the UK’s leading teachers of freediving courses and have been teaching freediving courses since 2003. They are led by Freediving Instructor Trainer Emma Farrell, the UK’s only instructor trainer with AIDA, RAID and SSI, and have taught thousands of people to freedive, including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jimmy Doherty, Ellie Simmonds, British Spearfishing champion Tim Barnett and Spearfishing world record holder Penny Bird.
Freediving is the sport of breath hold diving, being in the water and holding your breath. Humans have been freediving since we came down from the trees, and we spent several million years of our evolutionary history living in the shallows of the sea. We did this as it was a good place to escape from land based predators, and there was an abundance of easily caught food, such as shellfish and sea vegetables that helped fuel our brain development. During this time, we lost most of our body hair, developed a layer of sub-cutaneous fat to help keep us warm in the water, and honed the ‘mammalian dive reflex’, the series of physiological responses to being in water and breath holding that enable us to freedive and spearfish.
In the last few thousand years, humans continued to freedive for food, but also dived for items of value such as sponges and pearls. However in 1949, Raimund Bucher dived to 30m in the bay of Naples for a bet and became the ‘world’s deepest man’. After this feat, which doctor’s predicted would kill him, the modern sport of freediving developed, with people chasing depth for its own sake.
Modern freediving has competitions, as well as recreational freediving courses, taking complete beginners through progressive levels until they can become freediving instructors themselves.
Modern freediving disciplines are:
- Constant Weight
The diver descends to a depth and back under their own power, using either bi-fins or a monofin (constant weight with fins), or without fins, using breast stroke down and back (constant weight no fins). Constant weight with fins is a competition discipline and you can break national and world records in both. The ‘constant weight’ refers to the fact that whatever weight the diver is wearing on the way down, they must bring it back on the way up.
Constant weight with fins is the key discipline that you do on freediving courses and also on spearfishing courses.
- Free Immersion
The diver descends to a depth and back just pulling on a rope. During a free immersion record attempt or competition, the diver does not wear fins, and the weight they wear on their belt down must be brought back to the surface. Free Immersion is used on freediving courses as a way of helping the diver learn to equalise, and as a warm up for a constant weight dive as the legs can be rested. It is not usually a competition discipline but records can be set in it.
- Static Apnea
This is a pool discipline, where the freediver simply holds their breath for as long as they can on the surface of a pool. It is one of the most challenging disciplines as there is nothing to take the mind off the fact you are holding your breath, and giving up is easy as the surface is so close. It is a competition discipline and the current world record stands at a staggering 11 and a half minutes. It is practised as a stand alone discipline on freediving courses and is excellent practice for spearfishing as you can do it all year round.
- Dynamic Apnea
Again, practiced in pools, it is divided into Dynamic Apnea with Fins, where you use bi-fins or a monofin to do lengths of a pool, and Dynamic no Fins, where you do lengths underwater breaststroke. Both are done on freediving courses and records can be set in both, however Dynamic with Fins is the main competition discipline.
- Variable Weight
This is the first depth discipline to use equipment other than the standard equipment worn by the freediver. In Variable Weight, the diver uses a heavy weight, or ‘sled’ to take them to a set depth. They then release the weight and ascend back to the surface using fins and/or pulling on the line. It is an optional skill on advanced freediving courses and records are set in it, but it is not usually done in competitions.
This is the deepest discipline and the most dangerous. It is never done on freediving courses and there are no competitions in it, although there are national and world records. The diver descends using a weighted ‘sled’ and then uses a diver retrieval system to get back to the surface. This used to be a scuba tank filling a lift bag, however, due to the depth achieved now, flotation devices or winches are more likely to be used.
So how can taking freediving courses help your spearfishing?
Spearfishing is a sport done on breath hold, and taking freediving courses is where you learn how to breathe correctly before a dive, take the most efficient last breath, and learn to do recovery breaths, which are vital in help preventing black out.
On a freediving course, you also learn the most efficient duck diving and finning techniques, correct buoyancy control and rescue and recovery techniques. When you freedive or spearfish, you only have one ‘tank’ of air – the air in your lungs. So you need to learn how to minimise effort and maximise efficiency. Freediving courses show you how to conserve your energy so that you have more bottom time and more chances to hunt fish safely.
Here are some of the advantages to spearfishers of taking freediving courses
On a freediving course you learn advanced equalisation skills such as the ‘Frenzel” technique. This uses less energy, reduces the risk of injury, is more efficient, and makes it easier to get to depth quickly so you get to spend longer hunting fish
Freediving courses teach you perfect buoyancy control. Too often, when you start spearfishing, you use extra weight to compensate for poor technique. Learning how to tweak your weight to be optimal for the conditions you are diving in means a safer and more enjoyable spearfishing experience
- Safety Skills
Correct buddying, rescue and self rescue, towing, cramp removal and mask skills are some of the safety skills you learn on freediving courses, ensuring your spearfishing progression is safe no matter what happens
Finning, duck diving and body positioning are some of the vital performance skills you learn on freediving courses that make your dives longer and more efficient. They enable you slip stealthily under the water and make you more hydrodynamic. In addition, the stretches you learn help reduce the risk of injury, particularly lung baratrauma that can occur when people start diving deeper without the correct safety knowledge
- Breathing and Breath Hold
Freediving courses teach you to hold your breath safely for longer. They show you how to maximise your lungs to take the biggest breath, and how to avoid hyperventilation which can be fatal. We guarantee that you’re spearfishing bottom time will be longer after you’ve taken a freediving course with Go Freediving.
What freediving courses should a spearfisher take?
- RAID Freediver Course
When you start your spearfishing journey, the first freediving course you should take is the RAID Freediver Course. This is the foundation level course which teaches you everything from the Frenzel equalisation technique to how to self rescue. You’ll start in the pool and classroom to learn breathing and fining techniques, and then move to open water for two days of depth diving, techniques and safety skills. Click here to learn more
- RAID Advanced Freediver Course
The next step is the advanced freediving course, where you learn how to dive deeper, safer and for longer. You learn specific stretches to help prevent lung baratrauma, and dive up to 30m. You’ll also be doing longer static breath holds and dynamic swims in the pool, perfect for bringing to the real world situation of spearfishing. Click here to learn more
- RAID Master Freediver Course
The apex of your recreational freediving journey, taking you up to 40 metres and preparing you to be a freediving instructor. If you intend spearfishing deep in blue water then this is the freediving course you should be aiming for, to get you diving safely to depth thought of impossible just a few decades ago.
- Freediving holidays
And if you want to put your breath hold diving skills to use on a holiday, then our freediving holidays are the perfect place to do it. Warm water, tropical reefs, dolphins and great company all await you! Click here to learn more
Go Freediving have been teaching freediving courses to spearfishers for over a decade. Most of our freediving instructors are also spearfishers, so understand exactly what you need to get out of your freediving course and can tailor the content to you and your needs.
To be a successful and safe spearo, you need to be a properly trained freediver, and we know that Go Freediving is the best place to learn. Learn more and book your freediving courses now by clicking here to visit Go Freediving