Freediving tips for surfers

May 04, 2016 | 0 Comment

Freediving tips for surfers

Freediving tips for Surfers

Every surfer can remember a time that they’ve wiped out or been tumbled by waves, so we spoke to Julia from ‘Apnea Bali’ freediving school in Tulamben, who shared her top surf survival tips to help keep safe and calm in the water.  Julia’s ethos is that we can’t fight against the sea as we will never win, so it is important to go with the sea, adapting to changing situations as they happen. Surfers learn to read the sea, with freediving they can learn to read themselves and their body so that they can stop, think and calmly assess the safest way to get out of a potentially dangerous/stressful situation.

Tips to prepare yourself when you’re not in the water

Tip #1 If you get caught by a long endless set, an increased lung capacity can be vital to remaining relaxed and patient. Try and practice some simple breath holds at home. In the work up to the hold, breathe slow even breaths, inhaling deep into your stomach and chest then exhaling twice as long as the inhale.  

Tip #2 Simple yoga and pilates programs also help to open the lungs and increase lung capacity. Doing a few exercises before the paddle out, ensures that the lungs are open and that the body is prepared for the aerobic challenge ahead.  Pranayama yoga in particular focuses on positive breath holds and strengthening the diaphragm.

Tip #3 Body surfing is a great way to grow your confidence in large surf, become accustomed to sporadic breathing whilst playing in the waves. Learning to go with the energy of the waves as opposed to fighting them, allows you to conserve energy. After a wipeout, you will be separated from your board. Body surfing gives you a similar sensation in a familiar and fun context. Try staying under the water for 2 waves to get used to breath holds and comfortable with being beneath the waves.

Tip #4 With surfing and freediving alike, every spot is different and no one knows them better than the locals. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and advice from locals, as  you can never know too much about what’s under the water.

Tips for when you’re in the water

Tip #1 When being held under the water it is easy to panic and try to fight against the waves, exhausting yourself  and potentially worsening the situation. Julia’s number one tip is to stop, force yourself to keep calm, look up at the wave above you, make a decision about the best course of action and come up when it is safe to do so.  As soon as you’re submerged, focus on relaxing every muscle, this will lower your heart rate helping to conserve energy and will get easier the more you do so. As mammals, our mammalian dive reflex kicks in to lower our heart rate as soon as we’re submerged, relaxing will help to maximize this effect.

Tip #2  Although you may feel that your body is reacting in a panicked way, our body stores a lot of oxygen in the blood, meaning we’re capable of holding our breath for some time before drawing air. A key part of keeping calm is understanding that most of the urgency to breathe is mental rather than physical. You always hold your breath longer when you’re not being timed as you lose the awareness of time passing. Many freedivers recommend going to your ‘happy place’, as your brain tells your body you need air, mentally distract yourself with thoughts of somewhere which keeps you calm.

Tip #3 Understanding your own limitations, whilst respecting the sea’s power is also key. Ensure that you’re not going above your ability, sometimes it’s better to sit, watch and learn.