Yet another freediver has died while recreationally diving in late April of this year. 24-year-old James Alexander blacked out while diving with his brother off Solomon Bay in the US Virgin Islands. You can read the full story here.
Though this story and those like it are terribly sad and tragic, they’re depressingly common. I feel like I hear a similar story at least every couple of months and sometimes several times a week. I am frustrated and always ask myself, “Why does this keep happening?”
Maybe we just don’t have the reach to get the necessary safety information out to every freediver in the water.
People die freediving, but that doesn’t mean that death is inevitable or that freediving is some kind of crap shoot where divers wager their lives. Proper freediving education can save lives.
I accept the risks I face freediving, but I take every precaution possible to ensure that I will survive every dive, even if I blackout.
Here are a few key ways to stay alive freediving.
Understand the Facts
Divers who freedive alone are taking their chances. If they blackout while alone, they’ll die. After a blackout there is a short period of time (around two minutes) before the diver will inhale water and it’s in that time that proper rescue techniques must be employed to save that diver’s life.
Proper safety isn’t entirely intuitive. Even if you don’t have time to take a full 4-day or 2-day program, most agencies have simple half-day safety-only programs that teach divers how to save freedivers from blackout or even to prevent many blackouts. There are a few simple tips that can help improve safety, but nothing beats a full course.
No one is immune to blackout, no matter how good of a diver they are. I blacked out last week. Freediving great, Patrick Musimu died last year because he trained by himself in a pool. It happens, so the best plan is to employ a safety system 100% of the time. I never dive without a buddy, even if I’m only in 30 feet of water.
Sorry if this post seems a little brusque or preachy, but I’m just a bit frustrated that we have the tools to help people stay safe, but that this life-saving info isn’t reaching everyone.
Luckily there are freediving agencies, like PFI and FII, as well as organizations like DiveWise doing their part to get safety information out there. Maybe if all of us freedivers try to spread the word too we can help keep our fellow divers safe.