Let me start with a question – WHY do we need to do safety for each other on freediving open water sessions?

Despite it rarely happening, we shouldn’t ignore a slight chance of shallow water blackout on ascend. For this reason, the safety diver needs to dive and meet the ascending freediver at approximately one-third of the depth and escort him to the surface.

Freediving Safety

Let’s have a closer look at the most frequent mistakes.

The first “popular” mistake is not to follow the surface interval between the dives. So, for example, the freediver comes up from the deep dive, and instead of taking full recovery as if he gets ready for his next deep dive, almost immediately, he confirms he is prepared to do safety.

What is the problem here? – Obviously, the freediver hasn’t recovered fully. So when the freediver gets ready for his deep dive, he would rest after the last dive and never dive just after the recovery breathing. It takes a while to remove extra CO2 from tissues and renew the gas balance in the body. So why would the freediver prepare for the deep dive more carefully than for the safety dive? Just perhaps, safety dive to 10-15 meters doesn’t sound like a challenge. And if a safety diver needs to watch and escort the freediver, it is not a big deal at all. But imagine the situation when the freediver loses consciousness, and the safety diver needs to grab him, bring to the surface, and then do all rescue procedures. You know, all this lifting and supporting an unresponsive diver on the surface is a pretty exhausting activity. So make sure you rest long enough to perform as safety and rescuer if you need to. Take your time; no rush in freediving.

Freediving Safety

The second mistake freedivers usually make connected to equipment.

Before your dive, you probably leave a snorkel in the float to avoid dragging. But when you watch your buddy’s dive from the surface, it is more convenient to have a snorkel in the mouth. Of course, you hold the line to know when to start the dive, but sometimes it is not enough – your freediver may forget to pull the line, or he pulls too weak. So looking down is a good idea because you can react faster and not miss your freediver, making the snorkel a helpful piece of equipment.

The same story is with the fins. If you train without fins, you still need them for safety. Even if your no fins technique is brilliant, lifting a blacked-out freediver to the surface is not a piece of cake. You have to swim fast, which will be impossible to do without fins. And use proper freediving fins for safety – scuba fins or monofin are unacceptable; you can use them only for your dives.

The third mistake is to miss the moment when to begin the dive.

How do you know when to start your dive as a safety? When a beginner freediver dives to 20-30 meters, the easiest way to check when you need to start the safety dive is to do the following: you lie on the surface and hold the line when your freediver reaches the target depth, he grabs the line for a turn and pulls it (which is a part of turning technique). You feel this pull, and it means your freediver started the ascend, which is a signal for you to start your dive.

For deep freedivers, it’s a bit different story since they know precisely how long the dive lasts and at what exact depth you need to meet them.

          Mistake number four – not to watch freediver till his full recovery.

I guess this is the most common mistake. Freediver comes up, and after he finishes recovery breathing, you stop paying attention to him and do your staff. It’s a huge mistake. Full recovery is not the same as the end of recovery breathing. Recovery breathing is a certain amount of active inhales, and passive exhales and may last only 5-15 seconds. But full recovery takes more time. You cannot be sure your freediver is ok 5 seconds after he breaks the surface and shows ok. Some freedivers have a habit of showing ok as soon as they can. And the freediver could have LMC even after he did recovery breathing. So if you are not continuing watching freediver carefully for a while, you may miss the moment when he requires some support.

          Let’s finalize and try to set up four main rules for safety in the open water:

  1. follow surface interval timing for your safety dives same as for your deep dives
  2. check/put on your gear before you confirm you are available for safety dive
  3. start the safety dive in time
  4. Watch freediver till he fully recovers, not till the end of recovery breathing.

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By Svitlana Gaidai