|Freediving and Recreational Diving Industry|
June 22. 2011
Freediving and Recreational Diving Industry
by Mark Wallerstein
In the United States, freediving is growing exponentially in popularity and thousands of persons are taking up the sport each year. Only a few years ago, a freediver would have to travel long distances or order online to find the right gear. Now, it is becoming more and more typical that a person can walk into a scuba store and there will be an entire section devoted to freediving or spear-fishing gear. In the younger generation freediving, unlike scuba, is still looked upon as somewhat of an extreme water sport; which drives in even more people.
Like scuba, freediving is a self governed sport. However, scuba and freediving do have their differences. For scuba, a person needs a certification card to rent gear, fill tanks, or go on dive charters. For freediving, on the other hand, any person can buy a pair of long fins and head for the ocean without a second thought from anybody, training or not. As of now, freediving is primarily taught by friends or family members, which could potentially lead to major problems for the industry in the near future. It is only logical that as more people take part in the activity, injury numbers will grow. This will have a serious adverse impact on those of us professionally involved in freediving.
Agencies should continue to be able to teach what they like, but certain standards should be met by all. With this growth in the industry, freedivers will be booking trips on scuba charters to dive new waters. Without a certification card from a known and insured agency, a divemaster has no way of knowing what training, if any, the person has had. An untrained group can easily board a boat for freediving, injure themselves, and jeopardize the charter company and the on-board divemaster and crew. It may be early and asking a lot to have every freediver go to school for a C card, especially for people that have been doing it for years. However, it is not too much to make it mandatory for groups going out to have at least one freediver who has been trained in safety by a certified instructor.
It is also not solely the responsibility of the diving party itself. The working divemaster should have training or at least knowledge of freediving safety so that they can recognize problems and act accordingly. The industry should have set safety standards and procedures for all patrons. Safety procedures should not be something taught by a friend based upon personal experience. There needs to be set procedures and actions that are familiar to all while at the same time insuring the safety for all.
Establishing uniform standards is not only a good thing for people’s safety, but for the industry as a whole. With uniform safety standards, more insurance companies will be willing to insure agencies and instructors. Dive charters will start feeling better about bringing freedivers out and be able to cater to an entire new market. People will need to take classes, which scuba stores can offer. Overall, it will bring money back into an industry that has been suffering lately. Overall and beyond anything else, it can save lives.