Breathing is a sign of life. But so is the ability to hold it. When you find yourself underwater, the key to survive sans the floaters and oxygen tanks, is your basic knowledge of how to swim and hold your breath. Enter: Freediving. You may have come across this underwater sport from your daily habit of browsing through the net or you may have simply seen jaw-dropping photos that do not only show the marine life but also of people finding their zen deep down under.
Amidst the awe, we wonder: How do the freedivers do it?
Gen Abanilla, 26, is a Filipina freediver who started her underwater journey in March of 2015. Having first come across it when her former boyfriend showed her a freedive video clip, she mentions that for her, freediving is “to dive with one breath—no tanks, just my long fins, mask, and snorkel.”
She says, “I wanted to learn scuba diving but upon seeing the video, I told myself that ‘this is what I want to learn’… I've tried many hobbies before but I found my passion through freediving. At first, it was a struggle. It's hard to do this activity without a dive buddy. That’s why I am grateful to have found good freediving friends that became my mentors as well. ”
For a beginner freediver, Gen is proud to have gone 17.4 meters deep in 1 minute 26 seconds.
Cool, calm, collected
If you’re someone who likes inner peace but also seeks adrenaline, then freediving may just be for you. On top of being able to discover all of what’s underwater, you also get to get out of your comfort zone and face what could possibly be a fear for many. Gen encouragingly tells, “People who are afraid of the water, or even if you don't know how to swim, if you are decided to face your fear, all things will follow… don't stop. You will not only conquer the depths of the water but also the fears inside of you.”
She also, however, stresses on the most important element of freediving. “It's easy to learn the skills” she notes, “yet hard to eliminate the fear that's inside a person. Freediving requires discipline, discipline that can save your life.”
Freediving is, first and foremost, about having fun, and enjoying what you see underwater.
Free to freedive
Gen shares five things you should take note of should you want to jumpstart your underwater journey through freediving:
1. “Find a mentor. When you feel like you're not doing the right thing, ask your mentor how you can improve. Never stop asking questions.”
2. “Watch freedive videos religiously. The more you watch people dive, the more you will attract how they move underwater.”
3. “Have fun. Although diving deep sounds good, like the 'yabang' factor of diving deep and staying underwater for a long time, freediving is not a competition (unless you join a legit competition). It's about having fun, enjoying what you see underwater, and discovering your strengths and weaknesses on every dive.”
4. “Never dive alone. Freediving is a risky sport and you don't want to die drowning because of shallow water black out. Always dive with a buddy that knows how to rescue and will look after you on every dive.”
5. “True grit will take you deeper. When you feel like you can't do the duck dive properly, or you can't equalize easily, do not lose hope. Water time will help you become comfortable underwater. Determination is key.”
Gen shares in parting, “Freediving made me realize that I can be good at something, that I can be an inspiration to people who are afraid of the water, who are afraid to swim. Diving down there helps me forget all thoughts, to silence my mind and to just focus on the sound and the feel of the water. What you see down there is just something not all people can witness.”
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Photographs courtesy of Gen Abanilla. Follow more of her adventures here.