Monday, August 16, 2010

Free Divers Leave Tanks Behind

Extreme free diving is hardcore and becoming more mainstream. Although there are considerable risks, with the right training and breathing exercises you can minimize these dangers.

"Waves crash against a 45-foot charter boat as three men prepare themselves, and their lungs, for the challenge and exhilaration of the extreme sport known as "free diving." The divers eschew the air tanks used by scuba divers and instead wear only wetsuits and flippers . To prepare for a dive deep below the surface without any breathing apparatus, they inhale for 10 seconds, hold the air for five, let it out for 10. After 30 minutes of lung work, the men fall like planks into the tumultuous Gulf.

With a few sharp kicks, Rush propels himself down 35 feet and stays there for about three minutes, examining the floor of the Silvertooth dive site gilded with concrete rubble from an old bridge. The sport is all about freedom and the feeling of being one with the sea. Yet one mistake can be fatal. At least three people have died while free diving in the Gulf off Southwest Florida in the past year.

Free diving has a long history. Hunters and pearl divers throughout the Pacific, Australasia, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean have descended without gear for thousands of years. In the 1940s, free diving began to grow as a sport primarily in Europe and Asia. Rivalries formed as divers competed to hold their breath the longest and swim the deepest. With each record, free divers also broke scientists' beliefs that humans could not survive at depths greater than 160 feet. Experienced free divers of today are descending between 300 and 700 feet. Most scuba divers hover about 130 feet deep or less for fear of nitrogen narcosis. Breathing exercises aid people in pursuit of deeper, longer dives.

The free dive depth record is held by an Austrian man who completed a 702-foot no-limits dive in 2007 in Greece, according to the International Association for the Development of Freediving's website. The longest breath hold sanctioned by the association is by a Frenchman for 11 minutes and 35 seconds in 2009."

To read the full article please visit the Herald Tribune.


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