Whether you’re a seasoned professional or thinking about entering the water to free dive for the first time, there are of course some essential pieces of equipment that you need.
With that being said, from a beginner’s perspective freediving has a low barrier of entry in terms of gear. Once you have bought a suitable mask, snorkel, and fins you are pretty much ready to get started.
However, more experienced freedivers will be looking at advanced equipment such as wrist computers and specialized diving suits.
In part one of this guide, we will be looking at the equipment you need in order to complete your first successful dive.
1. The Freediving Mask
A specific freediving mask is a must if you aim to get the most out of the sport. You could opt for your standard snorkeling goggles, but you will find them a hindrance when trying to push yourself to greater depths and duration under the water.
Knowing which freediving mask to buy can be confusing, however. There is a wide range available, with many design combinations. You can read up on our top choice freediving masks for 2020 here.
The video below will also highlight what you should consider when buying a new freediving mask:
Masks designed for freediving, differ from standard diving masks in that they have a lower volume of air inside.
This is to make descending easier, while ensuring that less air in your lungs is required in order for you to equalise.
The nose pocket is an important addition that allows you to equalise the air in the mask.
The mask squeeze that we spoke of before when using gear fitted with plastic lenses has to be controlled to some degree.
Fail to equalise fully and you could end up with the pressure outside the mask forcing against your face to such a degree that the capillaries in the eyes rupture. Rest assured it is as unpleasant as it sounds.
When buying your mask it is important to choose one with a nose pocket that will comfortably fit your face.
Clear lenses on the mask are important so that you can communicate better with your diving buddy. Our eyes relay a lot of information with regards to our physical condition. During the last part of the dive, you will want your diving partner to be able to see your face.
If anything is going awry they will have a better chance of reacting in time. The same goes for you and your appraisal of their condition.
Clear plastic lenses are popular with some divers because they will bend slightly under pressure. While this may sound counter-productive, the flexibility of the lenses actually results in the mask contracting slightly against the face creating a very strong seal.
The flip side of this of course, (if the lenses bend too much) is distorted vision while at the very greatest depths.
2. The Snorkel
While you may be tempted to purchase a snorkel with all the latest bells and whistles, (we’re talking about unnecessary splash guards, purge valves even built in LED illumination here), such additions really are irrelevant when it comes to the needs of an accomplished freediver.
In fact, most freedivers prefer their gear to be as simple as possible. A streamlined snorkel without protruding embellishments is definitely the way to go.
When buying a snorkel for freediving these are the main things you should look out for…
- Straight and simple bore extension (a slight curve is good too)
- A soft and comfortable silicone mouthpiece
- Reliable attachment to fix the snorkel to your mask
And that is it. The simpler, more reliable the build quality and design the better.
Pro Tip: When diving to greater depths (either for competition or training) you should leave the snorkel with your buddy or attached to something at the surface.
The drag caused by carrying the snorkel down with you on the dive will slow you down and prevent you from achieving the very best results.
3. Fins & Flippers
Your fins are probably the most important piece of equipment when it comes to your overall performance as a freediver.
They help get you to where you need to go quickly and efficiently. Purchase the wrong kind or an ill-fitting pair and you will experience a lot of problems.
Let’s take a closer look at the two types of fin you can buy…
Bi-fins are the most popular choice among freedivers. They enable easy movement and mobility (when compared to the more restrictive mono-fin) and are the natural choice for recreational divers no matter the discipline.
When buying a pair of bi-fins for free diving, here’s a short list of variables you need to consider:
Long fins are good
Longer fins are much more efficient in that with each kick of the leg you are creating more power without the need for increased effort.
However, do not get carried away on this. Opt for a pair of fins that are too large and stiff and you will tire just trying to move your legs. Consider your size and muscle strength before you buy. Knowing your physical limitations is an important consideration.
Full foot fins
The design of freediving fins has seen the shape move towards a full foot wrap around.
In other words, whereas normal fins slide on the foot with a strap around the back, freediving fins enclose your foot completely.
The end result is increased efficiency with the power from your leg flowing down into the movement of the fin.
The monofin is exactly as the name suggests; both feet slide into the one fin with end result of you moving more like a fish than a human under water.
There are benefits to this of course. If you are able to perfect the swimming style that mono-fins require to work most efficiently, you will be able to dive to greater speeds and depth.
The downside is that the technique is more physically demanding (in essence you are moving your entire body in the propelling process) and in a practical sense it is more difficult to manoureve in, out and around the surface of the water.
If you remain tempted in the idea of replicating the grace of a dolphin while underwater, here are some of things you should look out for when buying a pair of monfins.
There are two choices of foot pocket on the monofin. Looser pockets are designed for comfort and are very similar to those that you would find on a pair of bi-fins.
Tighter fitting, more restrictive foot pockets are designed to give you increased performance and speed, at the cost of the aforementioned comfort. The pockets are also built at an angle so that the fin stays at angle in line with your body as you dive.
Some monofins will include wings, (or more precisely, slightly raised edges) on the side of the fin. These help increase performance by keeping water in place on the blade as you move.
4. Freediving weight belts
Weights are in important consideration when freediving. Mounting weights to your body will counter your natural buoyancy and allow you to reach greater depths.
It takes energy to dive against your body’s buoyancy. This is further exacerbated when you wear a wetsuit. The correct amount of weights will reduce that buoyancy effect.
Here are a few things to consider when adding weights to your freediving equipment setup:
The correct fit
You will want to wear your weights tight on the hips in such a way that there is no chance of them falling off, no matter your position in the water.
At the same time, they should not adjust their position along your torso. This could be dangerous if your weight belt was to raise up to your chest and restrict abdominal breathing..
A Quick release mechanism
If trouble strikes you should have a weight system that can be freed from your body with a simple pull on the belt. Your buddy should also be able to release the belt should such a situation arise.
A released weight system will help improve your buoyancy if you need to reach the surface.
Small, evenly spaced weights
Setting the weights along the belt so that they are evenly spaced around your waist is an important issue for balance.
For increased hydrodynamics the weights should also be small and compact. Freediving relies on smooth, friction free movement through the water, anything you can do to assist this will help your performance.
And there you have it, a look at the type of gear you need to get started in the wonderful world of freediving. In part II we will look at some of the more advanced pieces of equipment such as specialised wetsuits and freediving wrist computers.
Bookmark and head back soon for more freediving gear action.