AIDA Certified Instructor
1. Being prepared for the worst
Freedivers should always be prepared to face any eventuality. Rescue techniques and skills should be practiced frequently, in every session if possible, as they could one day save your life or someone else's. You should carry water, a whistle and mirror in your freediving buoy on every dive.
All freedivers should be able to handle an emergency and be familiar with emergency medical services. Divers should be proficient in CPR and basic injury procedures. A non-diver should always be notified of the dive plan and estimated time of return so that they can call for help if required. It is a good idea to have a charged cell phone to hand for emergencies if possible.
It is important that the distance from either the shore or the boat to the dive site is within the abilities of the divers to tow an injured diver back to safety.
It is advisable that the dive site is close enough to surface support, so that injured divers can be towed safely within as little time as possible.
2. Depth of the Dive Site
Make sure that the dive site is not too shallow - it should be deep enough to execute planned dives. Ensure that guide lines are never in contact with a fragile reef or are anywhere they can do damage to the environment.
It is important that the water visibility is good enough for a diver to see his/her buddy, to maintain eye contact during ascent. Should visibility be poor so that divers cannot see the bottom of the freediving line, then a lanyard should be used to connect freedivers with the guideline. This ensures that divers do not become separated from the guideline in poor visibility.
4. Check Weather Forecast when Choosing the Dive Location
Remember to check the weather forecast for any conditions that may affect the dive site. It is important to choose freediving sites which are protected from the elements as much as possible. Divers must be able to find their way easily to shore or to the boat in any kind of weather. The last thing you want is to be trapped at sea in bad weather.
The dive site should preferably be located somewhere that will not be affected by changes in wind speed or direction, making the dive risky.
5. Choosing Time of Freedive
Night dives are dangerous, visibility is next to nil and divers could become lost. Dusk is not much better. You should make sure that the freediving session ends well before the sun goes down. The light at sea diminishes in the afternoon, especially towards sunset. The best time therefore, would be after sunrise, sometime in the morning.
Before planning a freedive it is important to check the local tide times. Tides can be extremely strong - a freediver could be washed away from shore or the boat. Make sure to plan freedives in between tides to be safe.
If possible plan freedives on days with a light current. Freediving in a heavy current is dangerous as the guideline does not stay in a vertical position, making descent difficult. However, if there is no option, a drifting buoy can be employed. A boat should be at hand to follow the divers and pick them up when they are ready.
It is important for freedivers to be comfortable and stress free in order to concentrate and enjoy their dives. For this reason, choosing the right wetsuit for the water temperature is necessary. Freedivers who are excessively cold will not be able to hold their breath for as long because oxygen does not spread so easily through a cold body. Be prepared and the dive will be far more enjoyable.
9. Water Traffic
Make sure to tow a large buoy with a dive flag to warn water traffic that there are freedivers around. Dive buddies can act as monitors while their partner is underwater as boat captains cannot see submerged divers. Be vigilant as not everyone knows the meaning of a dive flag. If possible, choose a dive site where there is not too much water traffic.
10. Fellow Divers
If there are other freedivers or scuba divers in the same dive site, be sure to leave enough space so that everyone has a safe practice. It is best to have no more than three freedivers per buoy and to keep a minimum of five meters (fifteen feet) between each buoy.
If there are scuba divers in the area, make sure they are not using your freediving guideline as an ascent line. Check the surface for bubbles and check that your guideline is clear before beginning a freedive. You do not want to bang your head on a scuba tank!
To Sum Up about Planning a Safe Freedive
When possible it is advisable to dive with a professional freediving instructor or guide. They know the best sites in the area and will plan the dive for you. However, if there is no professional available, make sure to go over the ten points with your dive buddy before embarking on the freedive.