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Freediving: What is my limit?

FII Freediving Instructor Trainer Errol Putigna

By Errol Putigna

I often hear the excuse, "Oh, I'm fine. I never push myself..." This may be fine and dandy until something goes wrong. I have a friend that has a static apnea breath-hold of 5 minutes 30 seconds. He is definitely above the norm in the freediving world. As a general rule of thumb, your working time underwater is half of your static apnea time. So in his case, it was 2:45. I witnessed him having a loss of motor control (when you lose control over your muscles in which at this point you need the assistance of buddy to keep your airway out of the water so that you don't inhale water or if the situation escalates, blackout) after a dive that was only 1 minute 17 seconds.... Now the question is, what happened? Did he push his limits? We went over his dive and reviewed it..... To tell you the truth, I (and he) have no idea what happened except the fact that he had a properly trained safety buddy to bail him out of his situation.

This brings me to my next point on how to wrap your head around what freediving/spearfishing truly is: it is a sport in which there are so many variables that one can never be certain if and when they will have a hypoxic event (such as a Loss of Motor Control or a Blackout). The variables may be; what did you eat? Are you hydrated? Did you sleep well? Are you stressed about family or work? What was your breathing pattern before and after the dive? These are all variables that will interact with each other in a different manner on any given day. We just don't know.FII Freediver Training in Portugal

Having said this, there is one really simple solution to correct any possible mishap that may happen during a dive. Have a properly trained safety buddy! I cannot reiterate this enough. All it takes is one event of your safety buddy not being there and, well let's just say that it won't be good.... I always say, "I love spearfishing and freediving, but I love my wife and son a whole lot more." Keep everything in perspective. It's a sport we love to do but let's keep it safe! Take a formal freediving class and educate yourself on what you can do to be safe.

So, next time you're out there enjoying the outdoors, make sure that you have all of your safety plans in place and that you're not relaying on what your limits are!



Errol Putigna

Errol Putigna is an internationally recognized Freediving Instructor that works with Freediving Instructors International (FII) and 13 time world-record holding freediver and creator/founder of FII, Martin Stepanek. He helped develop freedive curricula along side Martin Stepanek, such as FII's Junior Freediver program and is one of the most sought after freediving instructors in the world, having taught professional athletes and Forbes 500 business entrepreneurs among others. He teaches both recreational level and professional level certification courses all over the United States, Bahamas and Spain. In addition, he has translated and adapted FII's materials for the Spanish speaking market.

Click here to view Errol's course listings.

Got Lube?

Martin StepanekBy Martin Stepanek


I have always believed the most important piece of a freediver's equipment is the wetsuit. I'm sure those of you who use proper freediving wetsuits can testify to this belief and will never go back to anything else. Those of you who don't have one, or are in the possession of one of those "Wanna be freediving suits" ... you just have no idea what you're missing out on, and how much this changes your freediving experience and performance. I'm sure you all know from your freediving course how identify the most important features of your wetsuit and get the most bang for your buck. As cool as a 3D Camo might be, having an open cell lining on the inside is far more important. There have been many articles written on the thermal advantages, increased pliability of the suit and other benefits of this key attribute. However, when it comes down to this single element, without which this otherwise beneficial feature turns into a nightmarish hassle, the majority of sources go pretty quiet. So, let's talk about lube!Girl Freediver with Freediving Wetsuit

A healthy mix of hair conditioner and water (1:6 ratio is my favorite) is not just for making suit entry easier. Shampoo, soap or even baby powder would do just fine. The advantage of a thick hair conditioner mix is that it stays there for the entire dive period. The lubes primary purpose is to create a layer of lubricant between the freediver's body and freediving wetsuit, thus minimizing the friction between the open cell neoprene and the skin throughout the duration of the freediving session. This seemingly strange ritual significantly cuts down on breathing resistance and increases the volume of air during the freediver's peak inhalation. The lube barrier also dramatically decreases the likeliness of pressure related discomfort and tracheal squeeze, while decreasing oxygen consumption and aiding in equalization. If you are lucky enough to have your suit made of Yamamoto 45 then this layer of lube will truly make you appreciate your investment, the extreme pliability of this material, with no friction on freediver's body, gives the sensation of diving with no wetsuit at all.

Sound too good to be true? Try it for yourself! The cheapest conditioner goes for about 99 cents a bottle. I'd say it's a pretty much risk free experiment. Just don't be skimpy! If you think you have put too much conditioner in your suit ... add a little more.

Note: Stay clear of coconut scented conditioners as these do not combine well with urine. Organic, all-natural conditioners are obviously a favored choice, however, finding an affordable solution that stays put for the duration of the session proves challenging.




Surviving the Airport With Your Freediving Gear


Freediving Instructor Mark WallersteinBy Mark Wallerstein


Traveling nowadays is difficult, and it only looks to be getting worse, especially with increasing baggage fees.  Unfortunately when we, as freedivers, are traveling we don't just pack clothes, towels, and sunscreen. We bring our freediving fins, masks, snorkels, freediving wetsuits, cameras, spearguns.... All of which are usually large, expensive, fragile, or all of the above. And it's no secret the ground crew don't exactly handle luggage "delicately". Lucky for us there are a few trade secrets that help make transit a whole lot easier, protect your gear, and possibly start some interesting conversations.

First let's start with your freediving fins. Your fins are usually going to be one of your largest pieces of equipment, and sometimes one of the most fragile, especially if you have carbon fiber freediving blades. The last place you want those blades to sit is in a bent bag on the tarmac in 108 degrees for 4 hours. Luckily there is a very easy solution that will often bring some entertainment and good conversations. All you need is about 2 feet of line and an always useful carabiner. After putting a loop on both ends of the line, feed one through the heel of the pocket and out the toe of one fin, then through the toe and out the heel of the other. Link it with the carabiner and attach it to your backpack strap and let your fins dangle free. Those with removable carbon blades can simply pop out the blades, wrap them in some bubble wrap and carry them on; alternatively if you have more durable plastic or fiberglass fins simply put them inside a hard case bag for checked baggage. As for the carry-on, for all the traveling that I have done, this has never been seen as a second bag, or any added expense. You certainly draw attention from onlookers as you walk through the airport with three foot fins dangling by your side, and this is not a bad thing. In fact, its is a great way to start conversations with random people about this amazing sport of freediving. On almost any plane I have been on the fins fit perfectly flat in the over head and you can put your bag on top to keep it safe, and if not, you can always ask the crew if they can hang them in their personal baggage area.Freediving Instructors International Staff & Crew at Prague Airport

Next let's move onto some of the smaller items. If you have a Sphera freediving mask the last thing you're going to do is toss it into a bag and say 'good to go'. You're going to put that mask into its big case and then gently place it into a bag and hope it's not going to get scratched or crushed on the flight. One little trade secret to save some space in your bag, and add even more protection to the mask, is to wrap it in clothes. If you wrap it in a t-shirt and then put it in the case you have saved space in the box and also completely padded the mask so whatever happens your mask will be protected. Same goes for a camera. Using your clothes as padding will immobilize it, protect it, and save valuable space.

One more piece of equipment that can be considerably hard to travel with, or if it's done right can actually make life easier is the speargun. Some of the biggest problems with traveling with a speargun is its size, unchangeable shape, and the fact that the spear can bend so easily, and depending on where you traveling cannot be replaced. Most people buy dedicated spearfishing/speargun bags, pack it and hope for the best. This is not bad; however certain things can be done to add more protection. Ideally you want your gun to be padded so if your bag gets banged around the speargun won't break. You also want the spear to have as much support as possible to avoid being bent. One way to help this situation is to zip tie the spear to the outside of your gun, and then roll it in some of your clothes (like rolling up a rug) and slide it into the bag. This will give some protection and stability. Even better would be to head to your local hardware store and buy a stretch of PVC piping that you can put the spears in and then zip tie it to your gun. This will ensure that your shafts don't get bent. The ideal storage for your speargun and clothes isn't even sold as a dive bag. One of the best bags you can get is actually a snowboard/sport hard case. A snowboard case is made of hard plastic that can take a beating, it can usually change lengths (great if you're traveling with both reef and blue water guns), and is wide. You can put multiple spearguns, shafts, and fit a good amount of clothes and freediving equipment in these cases, and they offer the most protection. The only down side to this bag is that usually you need to pay a little extra for it when checking in. However, if you pack right, and fit your clothes in it as well, it will keep everything safe and could narrow it down so you only travel with 1 bag. A bonus is that because it's odd shape and having to be checked as a special item it usually comes off the plane first, getting you into that beautiful blue water even quicker.


Mark Wallerstein

Mark Wallerstein divides his time between managing the office at FII Headquarters in Fort Lauderdale and teaching FII freediving courses throughout the South Florida region. He is currently training with Martin Stepanek for his Instructor Trainer certification and his favourite freedivng and spearfishing location is Hawaii.  A passionate outdoorsman, Mark loves nothing more than camping and being at the helm of a good Southern style BBQ. View Mark's upcoming FII freediving course schedule here.



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