It never ceases to surprise me how common smoking and freediving is – especially among some elite, record-breaking freedivers.
After all, freediving is a sport that revolves around holding your breath and using your lungs efficiently…something that smoking can severely handicap. So how are so many freedivers able to smoke yet still hit unbelievable depths? What role does smoking play in your freediving performance?
To answer these questions, I decided to research and compile everything I could find on the topic.
The overwhelming response is that yes, smoking does hurt your freediving performance. Whether you smoke tobacco, herbs or marijuana: each puff you take sacrifices underwater depth, total breath-hold time and can make it much harder to equalize. Some freedivers report quitting smoking and seeing a massive 25 – 50% increase in depth!
If you’re a smoker and you want to be able to hold your breath longer, the best thing to do is to quit smoking now.
If you’re not ready to go ‘cold turkey’ and completely give up smoking, I recommend switching to a healthier alternative that doesn’t damage your lungs as much as cigarettes.
A possible healthier switch could be to something like e-cigs or nicotine vapes. You’ll notice after using them for a couple weeks that your breath-holding ability can get much clearer, stronger and deeper, leading to better dives.
Disclaimer: Please be aware the information in this post has been written for educational purposes only. It is based on research I did over many resources I could find over the web, but should not replace the advice of a physician or medical expert.
Before I get into the specifics of smoking and freediving, let me first state that this post isn’t some anti-smoking, guilt-inducing rant meant to shame smokers into quitting.
Some people enjoy smoking and others don’t. There’s no judgement on my end – I completely understand the appeal and think it’s simply just another life decision. But for the sake of this post; smoking will not be seen as a good habit, simply because it takes away from your freediving ability.
With that out of the way, let’s look at how smoking and freediving pans out for you.
First, lets start with how smoking can actually help your freediving performance. And yes, I did just say help your freediving.
Funnily enough, there actually is some research suggesting that smoking can be beneficial for freediving. Let’s take a look at what it is:
1) Long term smoking can destroy your body’s carbon dioxide sensors.
2) Smoking forces your body to deal with a variety of poisonous gases entering your body at any point.
Now that we’ve gotten the possible benefits to smoking and freediving out of the way…let’s look at why it can hurt your diving performance.
Below is a list of just some of the ways smoking can ruin your freediving ability:
After just 20 minutes of having your last cigarette, your body will start to repair itself.
This reparation process usually lasts up to about 1.5 years. After this period of time, many the repairable tissues, organs and cells in your body are usually healthy again.
It’s important to note that not all body parts are repairable from the effects of smoking. Depending on how much you smoked and for how long; you may be stuck with permanent damage from smoking.
But if you’re looking to boost your freediving performance, you’re always better off ditching your smoking habit – even if you have already incurred permanent damage.
So…how will your freediving performance change when you give up smoking? Let’s have a look below:
Overall – once you quit smoking, you’ll be surprised at how much deeper you’ll dive with seemingly no extra effort.
It’s almost guaranteed that your smoking is holding you back. Many freedivers report it taking about ~ 4 weeks after quitting to notice better apnea times.
Some freedivers report quitting smoking and doubling or sometimes even quadrupling their breath-holds in just 4 months. Others report quitting and being able to break the 5 minute static apnea barrier with no sweat.
In other words: when you quit smoking you tap into your full potential as a freediver.
But what about the body parts that don’t repair even if you quit smoking?
Is there such thing as permanently damaged tissues from smoking? And if so, will your freediving performance forever be handicapped?
The below list is not a final be-all-end-all list. Some of the damage done by smoking that’s listed below as ‘irreversible’ may well repair itself. It all depends on how much and for how long you smoked for.
Parts of your body that do not repair after smoking:
Although smoking definitely acts as a barrier to you hitting your fullest potential as a freediver…there are still hundreds if not thousands of freedivers who smoke and dive deep.
There are some individuals who are able to smoke and set record depths…and even smash world records! Listed below are freedivers who either still smoke or used to smoke:
These guys listed above have all had a history of smoking and still managed to set incredible records and have amazing freediving experiences. But think for a moment how much more of their potential these divers could tap into, if only they didn’t smoke.
To any of you guys thinking about quitting smoking for better freediving, you might find this video inspiring:
e-cigarettes are generally regarded as being healthier for your lungs than normal cigarettes.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t affect your freediving performance.
Research shows e-cigs can cause lung inflammation, which may lead to mucous production and difficulty equalizing. E-cigs also carry nicotine, which increases blood pressure, thus increasing oxygen use when diving.
Lastly, it’s theorized that e-cigs do not leave any resin but do leave a coating of vapor on the linings of your lungs. It’s said this can temporarily block some oxygen absorption. If this is true, it’s better to wait to puff on your e-cig until after your diving for the day, so your blood absorbs oxygen quickly during your dive.
Overall, smoking e-cigs is probably way better for your freediving performance when compared to smoking cigarettes. If you can’t stop smoking cigarettes ‘cold turkey’; you can always step up into the healthier option and invest in an e-cigarette or vape (nicotine vape) and use that for a couple months…then slowly stop vaping all together.
Vaping / using e-cigs is also much more affordable than cigarettes, especially seeing as you can get a vape online for about the cost of a large meal.
Like e-cigs, vaporizing is also seen as the healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes.
In this case vaporizing means smoking herbal substances like aloe vera, types of tea and so on. Depending on the herbs you smoke, it’s less risky than cigarettes.
But there still is a twofold risk here.
First, you don’t know how the herbs will affect you under pressure and depth. Second, you don’t know how the additives to your herbs will affect you under pressure and depth. For this reason, I do not recommend vaporizing before freediving (even if what you’re smoking is ‘legal’).
I’ve never tried this myself. But I can imagine (and I’ve heard) that it’s pretty damn trippy. Some even say it’s an ‘enlightening experience’.
However, as you can probably expect: smoking weed and freediving is not recommended.
There is a laundry list of side effects that come from smoking marijuana. These ranges from paranoia, euphoria, anxiety, slowed reaction times, confusion and so on. One big side effect of being high, is that it’s commonly reported that time seems to slow down. This is risky as it could lead you to underestimating how long you’ve been underwater for, leading you to overestimate how much longer you can dive for – only to black out before resurfacing.
Overall: freediving is a risky sport. Do you really want to make it even riskier by being under the effects of mind-altering drugs while you dive?
You can still hit incredible depths as a freediver who smokes tobacco. There are countless examples of professional freedivers to prove this.
But it’s almost certain that smoking will get in the way of you hitting your fullest potential as a freediver and perhaps even make your dive a less enriching experience.
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.