About the maker
Jean Chabaud, owner and founder of “Plombs et Lestages Chabaud“ is the producer of custom-made, high quality neck-weights in Aigues-Mortes, France. This small-scale, artisanal manufacturer of freediving weights produces (in our opinion) some of the best quality neck weights available today.
Why a neck weight in freediving?
In freediving, or breath-hold diving, the majority of the buoyancy lies in the upper part of the body. As the diaphragm lowers and inter-costal muscles expand to take a maximum full breath, the “chest area” becomes a major source of the body’s positive buoyancy. This buoyancy force is what keeps you afloat.
A neck weight is necessary in many freediving disciplines, both dynamics and depth diving. The neck weight ensures the body’s positive buoyancy (i.e. from the lungs and wetsuit) is countered by the gravitational weight applied around the neck. The overall goal is to achieve neutral buoyancy at the desired depth.
In a pool setting, this desired depth is about 0.5 – 1.0 meters above the pool bottom. In a depth setting, the neutral buoyancy depends on how deep you will dive, but is usually 10 – 30 meters.
Please don’t make the mistake of using the same amount of weight you use in the pool as you do in depth freediving. This is called “over-weighting” and can be quite dangerous.
The “Depth” neck weight
For cold-water freediving and spearfishing in the Canadian Pacific Northwest, we tested the “Profondeur” (or “depth” in French) neck weight model from Chabaud. We were interested to see how this style of neck weights could perform in the difficult conditions we have in Canada.
This style of freediving neck weight is advantageous for depth diving for several reasons:
- Malleable: Being made with lead, you get a readily available and dense metal to work in your favor. Not only does it have a high weight-to-size ratio, but the metal itself is highly malleable. This allows it to take form around different neck sizes and wetsuit thicknesses.
- Coated: No one likes to touch lead directly. The flexible coating allows for protection of the metal, while also make for easy handling.
- Hydrodynamic: Very important topic. Home-made “tubular” neck weights are easy to make, but very uncomfortable. With a thick wetsuit, this can further add to the difficulty of getting those arms in the “monofin position”. Chabaud’s design is made specifically so you can keep your arms up and not feel the weight pressing against the shoulders.
- Comfort: The ability to be malleable and take any shape, while remaining a low-profile neck weight increases the comfort. This is a neck weight you can wear for hours and forget you have it on. Also, you won’t feel it rub against your chin during your free-fall.
- Modular: Very cool feature. Depending on where you dive, how thick your wetsuit is and how buoyant you are, you need only to add components. You simply stick on another 100 grams or 300 grams piece to your neck weight to decrease your buoyancy.
- Secure: If you like having your Atmos Mission One watch around your neck for an alarm, you want to make sure it’s secure. The Chabaud neck weight provides a secure strap to keep it in place. You can also buy the weighted strap, for both protection and additional weight.
Cold water freediving and spearfishing
In cold-water freediving we have to wear thicker wetsuits. 5mm thick to 8mm thick custom-designed wetsuits are an essential piece of equipment for freediving the Pacific Northwest or the glacier lakes in the Rockies. The thicker the wetsuit, the warmer and more comfortable you will remain in waters ranging from 5°C to 15°C degrees. However, the more buoyant you will also be.
You can read more about how exactly wetsuits keep you warm, heat loss in freediving and the characteristics of neoprene here.
Therefore, the more buoyant you are in the upper part of the body, the more afloat you will remain. A 7mm wetsuit has an immense amount of buoyancy compared to a 3mm wetsuit, of same Yamamoto 45 neoprene quality.
Wearing all your weight around your hips is not the best recommendation either. This will interfere with your breathing and impose on your bi-finning technique. For spearfishing in cold-water, this can have a huge consequence.
Freedive Wire’s Tips and Tricks
Here’s a few tips that I (Luca) have found useful while freediving and spearfishing in cold-water with my Chabaud neck weight:
- I can use a 750 grams neck weight with only 4 lbs (1.8 kg) on my weight-belt while freediving or spearfishing with a 7mm top and 5mm bottom Oceaner Freediving wetsuit.
- This setup reduces the amount of weight around the hips, making it easy for bi-finning from depth.
- I can attach my Atmos Mission One watch with depth and time alarms to monitor by bottom time while spearfishing. I safely attach the watch around the neck weight directly.
- The neck weights help me to free-fall in a streamlined and hydrodynamic position while both freediving and spearfishing.