Went freediving today, and it was great. Basically freediving is SCUBA diving, but on one breath and no tank. So, you don't go as deep, but you do get the same sensations for about a minute at a time, and at only the cost of whatever gear you buy and your transportation. Peaceful weightlessness, the feeling of flight, and a totally alien environment to explore. But the sensation is even more natural (pardon the condom commercial) as you don’t have any bulky gear on.
The sea near Antibes is world renowned for this sport actually, as the seafloor drops very quickly from the coast. In a lot of spots, you can swim 50 feet out and you’re in 50 feet of water. The hold the world records for this sport here, in a place where the sea drops to 300 meters (1000 feet)
I don't push it too often, but after about 3 weeks of practice, I'm able to get down to between 10 and 14 meters (30-45 feet) safely. Comfy cruising level is about 6 meters for me, can just chill and explore instead of focusing on going down and up. It's a really beautiful, but intense experience because you have to be zen, or you'll panic and lose your oxygen, and you're deep underwater. I used to be claustrophobic, and my worst fear in life used to be drowning. I got over a lot of that when I learned how to SCUBA dive, but I think I almost conquered it doing this. It’s not like I set about wanting to conquer my fear. It’ s that I wanted to dive, and well, that fear got in the way, so it had to go. It's a bit like Zoobomb, ripping down a mountain on a kids bike, be zen or crash... I'm either addicted to danger or zen.
Speaking of danger, well, yes, it is a dangerous sport. You can get what’s called Shallow Water Blackouts, which can kill you. But typically they only happen when people push themselves, which I don’t generally do. This danger can be minimalized with a dive buddy. Which I don’t have unfortunately, although I’m working on that.
I think I have a pretty good gear setup now. The most important piece of freediving kit are the fins (flippers for the landlubber). They make specially designed fins that are twice as long, thinner, and more rigid than normal SCUBA/snorkeling fins in order to provide the most propulsion with the least effort. Think of a barracuda or swordfish. It also helps to have a wetsuit, simply in order to stay in the water longer. And if you have a wetsuit, you have to have weights and weight belt. The weight belt is another piece of specialized kit. SCUBA weight belts are nylon, freediving are rubber, because as you dive, your organs contract, and the rubber stays snug and doesn’t flop around unlike the nylon ones. Still, all that gear did set me back a pretty penny, and I got the cheapest of the cheap. Like around three hundred bucks, which I guess is cheap compared to some sports.
A big part of the freedive scene is “peche sous-marine” which translate to “underwater hunting”, basically, spearfishing underwater. You hold your breath, go underwater, and hunt for fish with a speargun, usually under rocks and such. I haven’t tried that yet, as I’m just happy with looking at fish for the moment. Also I don’t know how to clean a fish, so I’ll wait till I can find a buddy for that. Oh French adventure buddy, wherefore art thou?