For some free diving/snorkeling is merely a stepping stone to scuba. Which I have no problem with and enjoy immensely when prolonged bottom time or depth is a required. Wreck and drift diving being classic examples, where I think you would miss out if all you had was a snorkel. It’s just, like the air you breathe a bit more canned and restrictive.
I have been free diving on and off (depending on proximity to water) for the better part of three decades and it’s the freedom and uncomplicated nature that draws me most.
There is a lot of purity in a pursuit where you are entirely self-powered by fins and a breath of air.
Where you glide uncluttered and unfettered through the water with nothing but the sounds of the sea and your own heartbeat. Where just for a moment, surface needs can be forgotten as you slip into a seamless oneness with the ocean. It can be quite a Zen like and spiritual experience.
One of the most vivid moments I have, is of free diving in Brazil and being passed over by a large eagle ray. Its sleek silhouette, effortlessly gliding against the glass surface above, itself being pimpled by tropical rain. The concentric circles of each large drop framing the ray against the silver light. It was a dazzling, natural instant where everything seemed to be as it should be. Even myself, the marveling observer with heart and mind perfectly stilled to match the creatures languid grace. A fleeting minute, that felt like hours and is etched with a smile into my subconscious forever.
There have been a few of these memories over the years – perhaps it’s the lack of noise or the increased self-awareness but marine life in general seem more receptive/accepting of free divers. Even in some of the busiest and most built up areas there can be some amazing things to see.
It’s also not without its challenges and therein also lies some of the appeal. It’s definitely a get what you put in activity. Becoming proficient in staying longer underwater or going deeper takes a combination of technique, fitness and regular practice. Drift from any and you certainly notice it. Not that you need to be Tanya Streeter to enjoy free diving. One of the best things about it, is its accessibility. It takes very little to just don a mask, get in the water and start having fun.
So next time its flat, get out there. After all, you are only a breath away from exploring the other 71% of the planet.
Has spent over 30 years of his middle aged life trying to spend more time in the ocean. Likes to surf, bodysurf, free dive and pretend he enjoys chasing big waves.