May 17

Stay Alive Freediving

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.

Get Education
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.

Employ Safety
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.


  1. Arif Junus

    Hai… I come from Indonesia and bad to hear that.

    I think he was not understand the risk of freediving. Maybe he did hyperventilated, bubling or something… and I think, he did not study about freediving,

    In Indonesia now a little bit popular and everyone trying do freediving without learning serious about a risk freediving just do and follow their instinc and also learn from youtube. And sometime in youtube is not always c

  2. Andre

    i agree, but what should i do if im going on a trip with my parents.
    i want to dive of the shore of the Dominican republic, but don’t have a buddy.
    im a competitive swimmer and lifeguard, but its my dream to freedive. however its not my first time doing this, i do it every year

  3. admin

    Hi Andre,
    Well the first step is learning the safety yourself, so that you’re fully informed of the risks, etc. No matter how long you’ve been diving, there’s a lot of safety information out there that just isn’t intuitive. Heck, i didn’t know any of it until I took my first class either.

    As far as traveling and diving- I know it’s hard when you don’t have a buddy around, but lots of agencies (I know PFI does this) have programs to help hook you up with other certified freedivers in given areas. PFI had the PFDGroup, which is an online forum where people often post things like, “Hey, i’ve got a boat and will be in the DR from this week to that week and need a dive buddy.” I’ve had many students try this with lots of success, but you only gain access to the forum once you’re certified.

    I know it’s not realistic to think that everyone out there will dive with properly trained buddies all the time, but unfortunately that’s the only way to be safe.

    I know this probably isn’t the most helpful reply ever, but there’s an upside too- if you take a class it’ll also drastically increase your dive ability, bottom time, depth, etc. so it’s not all doom and gloom. =)

    Have a great trip to the DR!

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