What type of Freediver are you currently?

In One Breathís view, there are four distinct types of Freedivers:

There are four more or less distinct types, or experience levels, that you progress thru as a Freediver. The natural progression brings with it positive experiences, such as learning a new technique or concept, as well as difficult and even dangerous experiences. The over arching experience is though that it is a learning experience that you will undoubtedly enjoy for many many year to come

Over time you will overcome many different hurdles; some physical and some mental. The two are really inseparable. When youíre better prepared mentally, your physical ability increases significantly as well. On the other hand, the correlation is also that if youíre in good physical condition, you will also be tougher mentally.

Interestingly enough, in the early years of free-diving the belief was that most all performance gains were to be obtained thru becoming mentally more tough and less emphasis was placed on the physical strength and techniques. But over the last few years it has become clear that emphasis on physical training directly translates into better results. Regardless of which you emphasize, you will go through distinct phases as a free-diver. Specifically, what I have observed over time is that there are four distinct phases that you will go thru. My observations of time and depth are to be taken as guidelines only as individuals do vary. I categorize the four phases, or types, into:

  1. Beginner
  2. Advanced Beginner
  3. Almost Experienced
  4. Experienced

1. Beginner:

This person typically has no, or little experience in the field of free-diving. This is a person who enjoys snorkeling and wants to try free-diving and learn the basics of the sport. He, or she, understand that there has got to be a better way to descend through the water than frantically kicking the fins and by some observation and experimenting realizes that by bending at the waist the descent is much more controlled and easy to control. At this level, the mental obstacles are more difficult to overcome than the physical. Just about as soon as the person is below the surface the fear of the unknown sets in and as results the time below the surface is limited. In spite of the hesitation, it is still a view into something really spectacular and the interest level is really high. The person is starting to fall in love with the adventure and the sport. Call this end of Season One.

In terms of putting this into time and depth; the person can probably dive down to about 0-7 meters and stay down for up to 30 seconds. In the unlikely event that the person would attempt static apnea, perhaps one to two minutes in most cases.

2. Advanced Beginner:

Typically the person has practiced some more during the winter at the public swimming pool and might even have gone on vacation and tried in more pleasant outdoor conditions and overall is left with the feeling that this sport and activity is worth pursuing more actively. During this time some more experimentation is attempted and the results are that deeper and deeper dives are achieved without any feeling of discomfort. The limit is usually imposed by the lack of mental toughness and experience as the body is quite likely to accommodate longer and deeper dives. All sorts of good questions come to mind such as: what happens to my body when I dive deeper and stay longer; can I get the bends; is it dangerous to ascend too fast? These are the signs that the person is starting to develop a real interest in the sport and wanting to learn more and more about it. End of Season Two.

A good rule of thumb is a depth range of 7 to 18 meters and that Static apnea is now part of the training and that ability is usually about 2,30 to 4 minutes.

3. Almost Experienced:

Third Season. At this stage, the person is really engaged in the sport and spends a lot of time practicing, learning and thinking about it. Starting to get an appreciation of just how vast this sport really is and how demanding and rewarding it can be. The person is now training on a regular basis to become a better free-diver. Looking around for courses to enroll in, wants answers to questions in order to advance, and to dare to push the limits of own capabilities. This phase is most prone to accidents as the free-diver has gotten pretty confident in own ability and the desire to push even more is so tempting. There is a lot of pressure to perform. This pressure is both internally generated and perceived to be put on by external sources assumed to be as results oriented as self. This pressure can put the person in the danger zoon quickly. All it takes is that one extra meter to be achieved on a dive that was not properly prepared for and that extra meter turns into two as it is a round trip after all. This seemingly trivial extra distance can cause huge problems in a situation where no extra stress could be handled and the person was already at the far limit of ability. This extra meter could very well limit your ability to make the surface ever again. Based upon my experience and talking to people who have come off a really poor dive (as described above), they will all tell you that things did not feel right at the turn-around point at the bottom. In order to stay in the sport for the long run, you have to develop a sense for achieving a comfortable feeling at the turn. It is as simple as that. If every time you dive have to struggle and feel uncomfortable at the turn, it is likely time to consider another less strenuous and less disciplined sport. Each person will describe their comfort experience a little bit different but you have to take into consideration things like ear pressure, mask comfort and overall sense of safety. It is only once you master these warning signals, and act on them, that youíre ready to advance to the next stage. For now, youíre diving to about 35 meters and are able to stay down for about 2 minutes while your Static time is about 5 minutes.

4. Experienced.

This stage is reached after several more Seasons and canít simply be achieved by attending a few courses or trying to hurry up and get to it. It just takes time to become a really good free-diver that demonstrates good judgment consistently. In Sweden and in other countries the ranks of this elite group is growing each year. The members are confident in their abilities as free-divers and as individuals. They donít hesitate to challenge the performances of others and trusts their instincts about what is right or wrong. They generally exhibit a humble approach to the sport and have a great deal of respect for water in general. They tend to live for free-diving. At this level, they are able to achieve depths of 35-100 meters, stay down for more than 2 minutes and Static time is in excess of 5 minutes.

It is really important to remember that depth and time are not the only criteria to determine the experience level. Of greater importance is the approach to the sport. Of course, the Experienced diver has spent more time training and is therefore more likely to achieve greater results in terms of time and depth.

Here at One Breath, it is our desire and ambition to guide You to the realization as to where in this range you are right now and to encourage you to pursue the sport while looking out for your well being as a free-diver by steering your clear of unnecessary risks. There will be times when there is no Black or White solution, Right or Wrong answer, and during those challenging times you will have to rely on your instincts and experience to think safety first and performance second. I hope that our enthusiasm for the sport of free-diving has rubbed off on you and that you are satisfied with what you have learned from us. We hope that you will further develop your interest in the sport and we look forward to seeing you at one of our many courses,

Gunnar Nordstrom