How to Learn Freediving: A Beginners Guide

Three freedivers wearing all black freediving gear floating in circle facing inward underwater in blue ocean.

If you’re looking to explore the underwater world on a single breath then you’ll want to be well-prepared for the challenge by learning how to do freediving.

Watching professional freedivers in action shows you how enjoyable the experience can be. Freediving is a thrilling yet challenging sport that takes great skill and practice.

This guide will help you learn more about freediving, the equipment required, and the essential techniques you’ll need to work on. We’ll also go through the safety risks associated with freediving and how to deal with them.

What Are the Types of Freediving?

In short, freediving is diving underwater without any breathing equipment and holding your breath for as long as possible before resurfacing.

While the main principles are more or less the same, there are several freediving disciplines you can choose to learn. Here are the most practiced ones:

Constant Weight

Constant Weight freediving entails diving deep underwater with little weight and without the assistance of guide ropes. You are allowed to touch the rope only when beginning to ascend. There are two Constant Weight freediving disciplines:

Constant Weight With Fins (CWT)

You can use standard fins or a single monofin to help you dive as deep as possible. This is the most popular freediving discipline.

Constant Weight No Fins (CNF)

The principle is the same as SWT, except you rely solely on your arms and legs to push yourself deep underwater. This is one of the most challenging forms of freediving and requires mastery of several freediving techniques.

Variable Weight

The diver is quickly pulled downward with the help of a heavy sled. Naturally, they can dive significantly deeper than Constant Weight freedivers since less effort is put into descending. 

With that in mind, a quick descent is risky and requires strong equalization skills. The diver can swim or pull on the rope to ascend.

Similarly, Variable Weight can be practiced with fins (VWT) or without fins (VNF).

Static Apnea

Unlike the previous disciplines, the diver is not required to delve into the depths of the water with the static breath hold. Instead, they’ll stay on the surface, submerge their face, and hold their breath underwater for as long as possible. This breath hold training is necessary to conserve oxygen, and breathing exercises go a long way.

Static Apnea usually occurs in pools rather than open waters and is the least challenging freediving discipline. If you’re wondering where to start, Static Apnea is a great option as it will prepare you for more advanced forms of freediving.

Speed-Endurance Apnea

Speed-Endurance Apnea (S&E) takes much more physical effort than Static Apnea. 

The diver will have to cover as much distance as possible while remaining submerged underwater. The event also occurs in a pool and can be done with or without fins.

Dynamic Apnea

The diver will swim at a certain depth below the surface and attempt to go as far as possible. 

Dynamic Apnea usually takes place in a deep pool but can also be practiced in open waters. Dynamic Apnea can be practiced with fins (DYN) or without fins (DNF).

No-Limits Apnea

No-Limits Apnea (NLT) is widely regarded as the most extreme freediving discipline. The diver is free to use whatever means necessary to dive as deep as humanly possible. 

Naturally, the descent is made using a heavyweight. Lift bags and balloons are usually used to accelerate the ascent. Due to its significant risks, No-limits Apnea is not practiced at a competitive level.

Free Immersion

The diver will try to dive as deep as possible but only with the help of the guide rope. Fins aren’t allowed in this type of freediving. Free Immersion is beginner-friendly and serves as good practice before attempting more challenging forms of freediving. 

Three freedivers wearing all black freediving gear floating in circle facing inward underwater in blue ocean.

What Equipment Do I Need for Freediving?

Freediving is not as demanding as other diving sports in terms of gear. Still, you’ll need good-quality, specialized equipment to enhance your performance and keep you safe. 

Let’s check out the essential Freediving equipment.


An exposure suit will aid your movement, regulate your body temperature, and protect against the elements. A free dive suit can be made of different materials and should be adequate to the freediving discipline you’ll take part in, as well as the nature and temperature of the water.

For instance, wetsuits are usually worn in non-tropical waters where your body will get cold quickly. Freediving on or near the surface can be practiced using surfing or scuba diving suits. 

With that in mind, wetsuits offer better sun protection and are recommended in warm weather conditions.

No matter the suit you decide to wear, it must fit you perfectly. When the suit’s too tight, your breathing will be restricted. A loose suit won’t effectively keep your body warm.


Freediving masks are great for exploration and will help you equalize the pressure when descending. To help with the equalization, you should use a low-volume mask to save more air.

Aside from that, your choice of mask will be up to your preferences. Make sure it fits you properly and is adjustable enough. To learn more see our guide on choosing the best freediving mask.


Although freediving is about holding your breath rather than breathing underwater, a snorkel can be handy when practicing just below the surface. 

On the other hand, you should always remove the snorkel for deep freediving to prevent water from rushing into your lungs if you pass out.

Weights & Weight Belt

Wetsuits are quite buoyant, which isn’t ideal for deep diving. To compensate for that, you’ll need a little added weight to help propel you downwards. 

This doesn’t apply to Static Apnea, where you should always remain on the water's surface.

It’s important to figure out the optimal amount of weight; too much weight may give you trouble when ascending, and too little weight may not get you as deep as you want.

To see whether your weights are ideal, you can do the following:

  1. Float upright at the water surface with your weights on.
  2. Exhale completely.
  3. See whether your eyes went under the water.

If your eyes goes underwater, you should remove some weight. On the other hand, if your chin remains above the water surface, you’ll need to add a little weight.

It’s difficult to weigh yourself accurately, but you’ll learn how in time. Any beginner Freediver course will assist you in weighing yourself.

And of course you'll need somewhere to carry your weight. An Elastic Rubber belt are used most often but some freedivers prefer Neck weights or vests.

Omer Marseillaise Belt


You'll need a good set if you’re going for a freediving discipline involving fins. Freediving fins are unique and can be tricky at first. Early on, learning how to effectively use fins will be one of your most important learning objectives.

These are the two main types of fins you can choose from:

  • Bi-fins. These are quite similar to scuba diving fins and flippers used by children. One key difference is that freediving fins are longer to allow better movement with less effort. Bi-fins are significantly easier to handle for beginners.
  • Monofins. If you’re looking to dive as deep as possible using your body strength, monofins are the better option. Monofins let you swim faster but require more physical effort.  

You can learn more about Mono vs Bi-fins for freediving here...

What Are Some Essential Freediving Techniques?

There is more to freediving than learning how to hold your breath. It takes a lot of focus and practice of several important techniques crucial for your performance and safety.

By taking basic freediving courses, you’ll learn these techniques and improve your skills with time.

Freediver wearing black wetsuit with legs crossed and eyes closed meditating underwater.


Your ability to breathe efficiently will determine your freediving performance. Breathing techniques may take a long time to master. By working on your breathing, you’ll learn how to relax your mind and body and concentrate to the fullest extent.

As far as breathing goes, you should learn to hold your breath and breathe right before and right after diving.


This is the main ability by which your performance will be measured. Breath-hold training will teach you how to conserve oxygen and stay underwater longer than you normally would. Breathing exercises will gradually increase your lung capacity and help you feel more relaxed while holding your breath.

Breathing Up (Breathing Before Freediving)

Breathing before diving is all about relaxation and concentration. You’ll want to exhale for an extended period to decrease your heart rate and slow your breathing rate by taking a deep breath.

Pausing after inhaling and exhaling will help you achieve a state of relaxation more quickly. Deep breathing will significantly improve your performance and your breath-holding skills.

Recovery Breathing

This requires a lot of concentration at first. You should hold onto something and only exhale until after your mouth clears the water's surface. 

You should breathe in and out quickly for a while before taking long breaths and learning about diaphragmatic breathing. This is called Hook breathing and can save your live... Long inhaling and exhaling immediately after a dive can cause you to pass out.


The drastic change in air pressure between the surface and the depths can lead to injuries and traumas. Air cavities get smaller and smaller as you go deeper into the water, which needs to be compensated for by adding more air.

Plenty of techniques and maneuvers are used to equalize air pressure when freediving. These are often combined to maximize equalization. Practicing these is an essential part of your training.

Mammalian Dive Reflex

All mammals, including humans, have a specific physiological response to being submerged in cold water. 

This entails shutting down certain parts of our bodies and overriding certain automatic reflexes, such as internal body temperature and blood pressure to ensure survival.

Strengthening your mammalian dive reflex is an important aspect of freediving. The only way to achieve this is by freediving time and again to help your body get accustomed to water submersion.

Duck Dive

Duck diving is one of the fundamental freediving techniques you'll be learning. If done properly, you'll be several meters below the surface. This will increase your chances to dive deeper and help you conserve as much oxygen as possible.

The idea of duck diving is to go underneath the surface of the water as quickly and smoothly as possible. Prior preparation and correct positioning are necessary for a good duck dive.

It takes time to perfect your duck dive, but you'll perform it flawlessly with the proper instruction and practice.


Most beginner freedivers prefer freediving disciplines involving fins; they are enjoyable and help you progress through the early stages faster.

Your finning technique will allow you to dive deeper in a shorter time, spend less effort, equalize air pressure easier, and enjoy yourself a lot more.

Bi-fins and monofins have different techniques. Bi-fins are more beginner-friendly, but mastering monofins is incredibly rewarding in the long run.

Finning requires good use of your arms, legs, and hips to ensure fast and efficient movement. It's easy to pick up a few bad habits when learning to fin. Freediving training will help you correct those and improve your finning skills.

It's recommended to practice your finning as much as possible in a pool and work on your technique and body mechanics before attempting to dive for depth.

Should I Take a Freediving Course?

Freediving is a thrilling yet challenging sport. It requires knowledge of what you're up against and a lot of practice to master the essential techniques.

You can try your luck without a freediving course, but it will be much harder to progress the way you'd like, even if you have the proper equipment and all the time in the world.

Holding your breath while staying fully relaxed takes a lot of practice and perseverance. In particular, if you're aiming for the deep blue ocean, you'll have to deal with the overwhelming water pressure and unfamiliar conditions. 

Naturally, there will be plenty of techniques to work on.

In addition, pushing yourself to your limits doesn't come without risks. Freediving is a dangerous sport where many things can go wrong, including blackout, drowning, and injury. 

With the guidance of a certified freediving instructor, you'll know how to do things safely and efficiently to reduce these risks.

You'll learn to be aware of your surroundings, which will help you deal with situations. There is also comfort in knowing there'll be someone besides you who can respond to any incident.

Besides safety and efficiency, you'll learn everything you need about freediving, which will help you know exactly what you're doing. You'll have a good understanding of your body's physiology. 

This will give you a better idea of where you're standing and how to improve your skills and abilities.

How To Learn Freediving Safely

Freediving, especially the deeper disciplines, is a dangerous and extreme sport. Without the necessary precautions, there are significant risks of injury, blackout, drowning, barotrauma, and other hazards.

To stay safe, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Never free dive alone. Even if you’re doing Static Apnea and other relatively safe freediving forms while swimming underwater, you’re never safe without a dive buddy to watch out for you. Losing consciousness is common in freediving. While it’s rarely an issue when you have someone besides you, you can imagine how terrible it would be if you were alone.
  • Avoid hyperventilation. Breathing before freediving should be as relaxed as possible. Forceful breaths right before diving may increase your chances of holding your breath a little longer but are very dangerous and can cause you to pass out.
  • Never attempt deep freediving before learning to equalize. To avoid pressure-related injury and trauma, you should never dive deep without equalizing the air pressure. If you fail to equalize properly, you should immediately cancel your dive and try again.
  • Only dive if you're healthy and well-rested. You’ll need every last bit of your physical and mental capacity to free dive. Don’t attempt freediving if you’re feeling tired or sick.
  • Drink enough water. Dehydration makes it very difficult to equalize pressure, which increases the risk of blackout and injury. Be sure to drink a lot of water before freediving.
  • Rest between diving sessions. Full recovery is necessary to restore your CO2 levels. First, take at least 5 minutes before diving. Make sure to breathe properly and prepare for the next dive.
  • Take a freediving course. Having a professional freediving instructor guide you through freediving will ensure you don’t learn bad practices. They’ll be able to assess your progress and help you work on your techniques. You'll also practice basic rescue techniques. In addition, by having a PADI Basic Freediver certification (or equivalent), you'll be eligible to participate in several competitions.

Competitive freediver plunging to the depths of the ocean using freediving line.

Final Thoughts

It takes a great deal of preparation and practice to become a confident and comfortable freediver, but when you demonstrate basic water skills, you're already on your way up.

Depending on the discipline of your choice, you’ll need to master several essential techniques and practice them regularly. Watching yourself progress will boost your spirits and push you to improve.

Be sure to enjoy yourself in the process; the thrill of the experience is worth your time and effort.

You can always refer to our beginner guide before getting started!

About the Author Gerrie van Niekerk - Apnealogy

Gerrie is a passionate Freediver, Spearfisher, Digital Marketer, and author for the Apnealogy website. Gerrie is an SSI Level 1 certified Freediver who loves geeking out about freediving and spearfishing gear and lives for his family and adventure.

follow me on:

Leave a Comment: