Azure Passion custom wetsuit review

Azure Passion is a company located in sunny Greece that makes wetsuits, spearguns and fins and ship all over the world. This is a review of an 8 mm custon smooth/cell wetsuit. The Azure Passion custom wetsuit is a very good suit with attention to detail that is not painful on the wallet.

Azure Passion custom fit

The fit of the azure passion custom wetsuit is perfect. The sizing chart of the wetsuit has over 25 entries, so you will be measuring for a while, but the result is great. The perfect fit will assure that you are kept cozy warm and will keep water from sloshing through your wetsuit. The legs and arms are sized according to the thickness of your upper and lower arms and legs, and the circumference of your knees and elbows. This means that the suits limbs stay where they are supposed to and you will keep the sleeves to where they need to be: one centimeter past your wrist and ankle. This is not trivial with a wetsuit designed for cold water, because you need to make sure that you do not get cold water sloshing into your neoprene socks and gloves. (Note: I recommend you go to a tailor with the measurement sheet and a photo of a wetsuit so that you can get your sizes taken professionally. An excellent fit starts with excellent measurements).

Azure Passion Wetsuit Material and insulation

Azure Passion custom wetsuits are made out of quality Heiwa AWS (accompany with skin) neoprene, which is elastic, tear resistant, and keeps its elasticity for a long time. This particular smooth/cell (smoothskin on the outside, open cell on the inside) has no fabric lining the outside or inside. I was surprised at the elasticity of the material, even though 8 mm is a lot of neoprene.

I am a wimp in cold water. My apnea ability goes down and frankly, I don’t like being cold. There are some divers here along the Pacific Northwest that dive in a 5 mm suit in the winter, and a 3 mm in the summer. Commonly they last less than 45 minutes in the water in winter before having to get out and warm up. I’d rather be warm during the entire dive. The first time I dove with this suit I stayed in water of about 9 degrees C for well over an hour, and I was warm when I came out. For maybe the first time ever I did not get out of the Pacific because I was cold, but because I was done diving.

Attention to detail

When I get new gear, I always inspect the fragile parts of the material. In wetsuits, those are the edges and the seams (especially where three pieces of neoprene meet). I was happy to see that Azure Passion puts an extra patch of thin neoprene over the most fragile parts of their wetsuits, the triple connections in the armpit (see the photos below). This extra patch helps to prevent the common pinholes in the armpit that will get water into your suit when you stretch your arms overhead. Along the lower edge of the upper part of the wetsuit, and in the crotch and on the beavertail is a glued fabric. This avoids the wearer ripping their wetsuit apart when they try to take it off.

Price and comparison to other wetsuits

This custom wetsuit retails for 250 EUR + shipping costs from Greece. Considering the quality of the wetsuit and the excellent fit this is a competitive price. It compares very well to my unfitted 3 mm wetsuit (240 USD) which was cheaper, but allows a lot of water to come in along my back, and doesn’t keep me warm as well. I have a 5 mm custom wetsuit that does not fit as well and I think was fabricated with a cheaper neoprene and within 2 years has dwindled down to 3 mm (250 USD). In short, Azure Passion holds up very well compared to the wetsuits I have used and seen so far and is great value.

The person I was in touch with about my wetsuit was responsive and helpful (we communicated by e-mail). The suit was shipped approximately 2 weeks after ordering, and arrived another 10 days or so later (shipping within Europe).

Find them online: www.azurepassion.com

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Freediving holiday in the Maldives

Have you ever dreamt of visiting a tiny tropical island along the equator and spearfishing and freediving to your hearts content? With awesome reefs within walking distance? Tuna, grouper, and snapper, so close you can touch them? Freediving with mantas? Turtles? Now you can. The owners of Island Vista Inn in Ukulhas will make sure that you are at ease, well fed, and diving as much as you can. Submerged reefs at 5 meters or 35 meters? They know where to find them. Average visibility? 20+ meters.  Always wanted to dive through deep caves? No problem.

The Island Vista Inn

The Island Vista Inn is located in Ukulhas, Maldives. It is a small island of less than 1 km across. The island itself is small and laid-back and has a beautiful beach that will keep the entire family happy. There are a couple of restaurants as well, but after you have enjoyed the food at the Island Vista Inn, you will not ever want to eat anywhere else anymore. The are committed and will spend however long they need to in the kitchen to cook the catch of the day.

spear, eat, and be happy

How to get there

After you arrive in Male (MLE airport) you can get to Ukulhas in the following ways:

  1. Public ferry
    Experience the most common means of transportation  used by locals in the Maldives. Enjoy a memorable sea journey that lasts for 4 hours and 30 minutes and possibly encounter flying fish and dolphines. Male Island to Island Visa Inn on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday at 9 am and back to Male Island on Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday from the Ukulhas Jetty.
  2. Speed LaunchThe speed launch service is for guests who prefer a comfortable fast mode of transportation.Travel takes one hour – 1 hour and 30 minutes (weather dependent). Private hire: 600 US$ for a round trip of up to 9 passengers, get a single way for 300 US$.
  3. Speed boat ferry (request 3 days before transfer) Speed boat ferry runs all days but Friday, departing Ukulhas at 7 am and departing Male at 4 pm.
  4. Seaplane The most adventurous way of traveling, get a birds eye view of the tiny pearl like islands. The sea plane will arrive at an island close by from which our guest house transport service can pick you up by speedboat (approx 10 min.). Seaplanes are US$ 330 per person (round trip) per adult, US$165 per child of 2 – 12 years. Children up to 2 years old are free of charge.

Select dates below, submit, and Edam will get in touch with you for you the diving holiday of your dreams (see some photos below, for more photos and information go to www.islandvistainn.com).

 

 

sspearfishing maldives
Ukulhas beach. You will be a 2 min walk from this beach
spearfishing Maldives
Yes you can jetski too.
spearfishing maldives
Average visibility. Spearfishing is unfortunately no longer a possibility

 

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Performance Freediving International – Advanced course, Safety Supervisor and DAN DEMP

What follows is @wrick’s review of the Performance Freediving International (PFI) advanced course, including safety supervisor and Diving Alert Network- Diving Emergency Management Provider (DAN DEMP) course. The course was taught along the Kona coast, Jack’s diving locker and Honaunau by instructors Kirk Krack and Shelby Eisenberg, with Chris Bustad, Charles Beddoe and a guest appearance on the line by John Hullverson. Photo above is @wrick with a school of Akule by Wayne Levin.

How I started freediving

I first travelled to Kona to learn freediving in 2002 or so. I was a SCUBA diver who heard about freediving and had read Carlos Eyles books: Last of the Blue Water Hunters, Secret Seas and The Blue Edge. Before ever feeling a contraction during statics or squeezing into my first open cell wet suit I was hooked. My first formal instruction, it should be said, wasn’t very formal at all. Carlos’ instructions on how to freedive were more about watching, paying attention and listening. It was learning by immersion and it was amazing. We would go to places along the Kona coast, jump in and spend a couple hours in search of Manta or fish to take pictures of. Other divers would join us. I met Brett Lemaster on one of those dives, who was a former world record holder in the discipline of constant weight. His record was 81 m and the way he moved up and down through the water column looked effortless. Also on that trip I met an underwater photographer named Wayne Levin whose black and white images of body surfers and giant schools of Akule are extraordinary.

http://waynelevinimages.com/fish-schools/

http://waynelevinimages.com/surfers/

Wayne and I have stayed in touch and I got to dive with him again on this trip. He is still one of the friendliest fellows you will ever meet and he still shoots analogue.

After my immersion with Carlos in ’02 I went home to the cold waters of BC and due to a number of factors I wasn’t able to continue diving. A few years ago I got the itch back and returned to Kona to take instruction with Freediving Instructors International. It was my first formal training and I learned so much. I went on to participate in their week long Kona camp and had a great time making great friends (Team Zissou from Maui remain great dive pals).

I wanted to continue learning and knew that Performance Freediving International was based out of Campbell River and so I thought that it might make more sense to continue learning with a local outfit. I took an Intermediate course in Vancouver with Kirk and Shelby and knew that sometime soon I would want to try the advanced.

Now I should say that while I am very comfortable in and under the water I haven’t necessarily found freediving easy. I have had some challenges with equalization and sinus issues that have sometimes held me back and before my advanced course hitting 25 m in Vancouver was all I could handle. My expectations for the advanced were therefore a bit muted.

In order to pass the course you need to demonstrate proficiency in the many different safety protocols, pass a full day DAN Diving Emergency Management Provider course and fulfill the depth requirements. The days were long and the expectations high but the one area I was sure I wouldn’t pass were the depth requirements. In order to pass the course you need to do a pull down to 40m demonstrating good technique and a 40 m CWT with good technique. I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen. My goals were to learn all the advanced safety skills, advance my understanding of equalization techniques and if I was to hit a strong 30 m I would be a very happy guy.

Our class was full, I think there were 9 of us all together. The days were long. I was exhausted all of the time. The travel to and from our open water site could seem a bit frantic at times due to the amount of material we had to cover in class and pool before heading to Honaunau which is a 30 min drive away from Jack’s.

Everything was taken to a new level. In the morning we would cover theory practicing new skills like advanced breathing and equalization techniques and the many safety skills we would have to know for the Safety Supervisor part of the class. In the late morning we would hit the pool where we were expected to be proficient with many different rescue scenarios. In the afternoon we would go to the City of Refuge and Honaunau for open water to work on our depth training. Lanyards and neck weights were employed along with primary and secondary safety so at first it was a lot to keep track of. And it was all new to me. Am I at the clutch? Ohhh right I am primary safety. Wait… somebody grab that pool noodle before it floats away. I won’t soon forget my first dive on the line with lanyard, breathing up on my back with pool noodles under my neck and behind my knees- four pounds of lead shot around my neck I remember thinking-this feels a lot more like sky-diving than freediving. The stakes seemed higher with all the new equipment and techniques to become acquainted with. It is here that our very skilled, patient, confident, encouraging instructors were at their best. Charles and Chris guided us through all of these new skills and responsibilities while Kirk or Shelby were focusing on overseeing most of the time. A note on all of the instructors. I think they have a different motor running in there than I have in here. Dives to 40 m and beyond over and over is extremely energy intensive. I actually have no idea how they manage. But they did all this and more (retrieving the odd snorkel or fin for example) while maintaining an exacting standard for themselves as far as modeling great safety skills, great diving, and super teaching. If you are still reading this then I presume you have more than a passing interest in freediving and so you know how tricky it can be to sort out what is up with your equalizations, hard and soft kick cycles, sink phase, head position, timing for rescue scenarios, it goes on and on and it seems every time I was up against some issue there would be two or three super helpful suggestions from any of the instructors. I think that was reassuring too. At first your instinct is to rely on Shelby or Kirk as they were the Advanced Instructors but it took no time at all to figure out that any of the people out there on the line representing PFI had a tonne of knowledge and were very good at helping you incorporate it.

Did I mention that I have a bleeding disorder? No? Well if you are interested in reading about freediving for someone that is prone to excessive bleeding you should follow this link. I bring it up because in the past my health issues have caused some confusion and concern with freediving instruction. What I would like to appreciate PFI for is a general comfort with my medical condition that I hadn’t experienced before.

It seems that it is important to PFI to make the sport accessible to anyone who wishes to experience what it is like to be weightless and free of the indignities that gravity imposes on those of us with mobility issues for example. I have lost the ability to participate in most land based recreational activities due to lifelong bleeding into my ankles. PFI has enabled me to freedive to my hearts’ content.

Did I make it to 40 m? No. But I hit 35 CWT and a 5:30 static which for me was everything I could have hoped for. None of my instructors paid lip service to the idea that it isn’t about the depth or time, it’s about the process, the technique, the safety. Being comfortable before progressing. Every one of us regardless of how our depth training was going that day was made to feel good about where we were. And, hey, you can see 40 from 35 right?

See you out there.

Rick +
Wayne Levin (left) and @Wrick (right), photo by Chris Short

 

 

Freediving with a bleeding disorder

This post was submitted by @wrick (on the above photo, credit: Maxwell Hohn). @wrick is a freediver on the west coast of Canada, nearly a regular on the Hawaiian Islands, and a great person to dive with. @wrick suffers from a serious bleeding disorder, but this does not stop him from diving deeper than 30 m, or doing 5+ min statics. Here is his story:

An important part of freedive training is becoming familiar with different kinds of freediving emergencies; shallow water blackouts, whiteouts, laryngospasms, loss of motor control (known as LMC), decompression illness (rare) and of course barotrauma. In order to recognize these different problems two approaches are employed. Through role playing in the pool and on the line we get to see the signs and symptoms of these problems and practice handling them. But this relies on the acting abilities of our classmates and instructors and while I should say that Kirk Krack’s LMC imitation is a must see there is no replacing watching the real thing. If you freedive long enough you are likely to witness an LMC. But seeing it once in person within the stress of the moment is different than watching it over and over in class on a TV screen. With repeated practice you become comfortable with these freediving problems in a controlled setting before you have to act on a real-life emergency.

One of the more dramatic and disturbing freediving emergencies to witness of course is a barotrauma that causes bleeding. Even a relatively minor issue such as a blocked sinus blowing out can mean a very bloody nose and a mask filled with blood. Anytime there is blood pouring out of a human it gets your attention. It gets mine anyway. I am not squeamish and certainly not around blood, more on that in a minute, but a video we watched of someone experiencing a serious lung squeeze, which meant watching a freediver coughing up a lot of blood, was deeply affecting. It was very emotional for me anyway. It was hard to watch someone doing something they love ending up bloody and fighting for breath. Hard to watch but important to see.

Safe freediving while prone to bleed?

Did I mention that I have a bleeding disorder? With the risk of trachea and lung squeeze that attends freediving you might think that having a bleeding disorder would make it off limits. Without getting into the details, here’s what I know. I have a great Hematology team (world class) that I have spent a lot of time talking with about the risks and my particular condition. We came up with a regime that in theory means I am at no more risk than anyone else when freediving and upon a lot of reflection, that is good enough for me.

I decided a long time ago that depth competition was not for me and while I know that this will not insulate me from squeezes it feels a good place to start. It will also be important to keep up with stretching and other dry land training that supports safe freediving. Freediving will never be risk free for any of us but I feel quite a bit safer for having had all the training I have had.

I think it is fair to expect that my propensity to bleed will catch peoples’ attention. In the past I have been anxious that I would be unable to continue to learn and participate in formal training due to the understandable concerns. I have had most of my freediving training with Performance Freediving International (PFI). What I would like to appreciate PFI for though is a general comfort with my medical condition, a comfort that I haven’t found anywhere else. Does that mean they weren’t as safety conscious as they could be or needed to be? No. What it meant was that they trusted me and my expert medical team to weigh and assess the risks. Period, end of discussion with no lingering anxiety. I had to provide a doctors’ waiver of course but I haven’t always found that allays all fears. I guess it is no surprise to me that PFI is undertaking to teach Freediving to people with different physical challenges. This is from a Deeper Blue interview from Blue Wild Expo about accessibility and diving:

 

“The idea is, everyone should have an opportunity to play in freediving at some level of capacity,” Krack said. “We’re going to start introducing a level of programming within Performance Freediving for people with disabilities and into the near future then we’ll offer our instructors an instructor program so that they can then do that sort of thing.”

 

It seems that it is important to PFI to make the sport accessible to anyone who wishes to experience what it is like to be weightless and free of the indignities that gravity imposes on those of us with mobility issues for example. Let me be clear, safety has been at the centre of every freediving course I have ever taken. PFI is no different. What I appreciate about PFI is their conviction to making freediving accessible. I work as an audio describer. I describe theatre for folks who are blind. So I get accessibility, and appreciate the ease and grace PFI has when faced with freedivers like me and those who have more to contend with physically than I. It is a great relief to feel normal. I have lost the ability to participate in most land based recreational activities due to lifelong bleeding into my ankles. So, Freediving plays a very important role in my physical and mental well-being. Thank you PFI.

@wrick in Porteau Cove, enjoying plumose anemones growing on a ship wreck.
@wrick in Copper Cliffs, photograph by Tom Lightfoot.

 

Freediving fins: bi-fins, the monofin, hyperfin, Lunocet and DOL-fin monofins

Maybe you used ancient scuba fins (short bi-fins like in the above photo) when you did your first dive, or maybe you bought a cheap pair of bi-fins. When you start going down longer, deeper, and start feeling your legs burn on the way up it may be time to rethink your propulsion and get a proper pair of freediving fins. There are many options, from plastic bi-fins to carbon monofins to aluminum DOL-fins. Here are some of the things to consider when you buy a new fin, or pair of fins.

What are you using your fin for and where are you using it?

If you are spearfishing, you are going to have very different requirements from a fin than if you are purely doing competitive depth dives. Depth divers do not need the agility that spearfishers need, and are fine if they can just go up and down in a straight line. Spearfishers (and harvesters) need to be able to navigate kelp forests, reefs, occasional overhead environments and therefore need different gear. You will not commonly see a spearfisher with a monofin, although I have heard of one with an Orca Dol-fin. Spearfishers and recreational divers nearly always have a pair of bi-fins.

Also think of the water temperature when you are buying fins. In Canada, we dive with at least a three millimeter neoprene sock, more often with a 5 mm. This will mean you need to get a different size. In the tropics, you might be fine without neoprene socks.

Monofins and hyperfins are good for depth diving. A hyperfin is a monofin with a blade that is angled with respect to the foot pockets, and usually with reinforced edges (so not merely a triangular plastic, composite, or carbon flap). Consider a hyperfin an upgraded version of a monofin. Hyperfins and monofins are more efficient than bi-fins and require an all-body motion in order to get a good kick. They work optimally under a very narrow range of kicking amplitude, and are not great for surface swimming. Again, not a problem if you are a depth diver, but it may be problematic when spearing or sub-optimal when doing recreational dives. Another important difference with bi-fins is that you will not be as good of a buddy in a monofin. Helping an unconscious person in the water is much easier with bi-fins

Recreational divers are in between the demands of a depth diver and a spearfisher. They like to navigate rock reefs and overhead environments, so need more agility than a depth diver. However, they do not need to be worried about entanglement the way a spearfisher does. Recreational divers can use any type of fin but most commonly use bi-fins.

The safety diver in the foreground uses bi-fins, the diver uses a hyperfin. Photo from Jahyem, CC BY
The safety diver in the foreground uses bi-fins, the diver uses a hyperfin. Photo from Jahyem, CC BY

 

Freediving fin materials

Fins come in different materials. The cheapest and sturdiest is plastic. It is unfortunately very inefficient. Composite or fiberglass is one step up, and is a bit lighter and more expensive. Then comes carbon. A good fin is carbon and you should be able to buy it with different blade strengths. The blade should not bend more than about 45 degrees at normal kicking strength (with any material), so make sure you buy a blade stiffness that is adequate for your leg strength. If your fin bends too much or too little it loses its force and you will lose efficiency. If you are fairly light and have not got a lot of strength in your legs get a light blade. If you are heavy and muscular, get a stiff blade.

Hydrofoils: the future is here

[Edited in light of new information in December 2015] A foil is a wing shaped object, and a hydrofoil is a wing shaped object to be used underwater. Hydrofoils like DOL-Fin monofins and the Lunocet do not bend themselves (though I think the flukes of a lunocet do), a large difference from bi-fins and mono-fins. Rather, they depend on a suspension system that allows the blade to change angles. Both the DOL-Fin monofins and the Lunocet can be disassembled in order to make them easy to transport.

DOL-fin monofins

The foil of the DOL-Fin is aluminum. The DOL-Fin Orca model has a foot binding strap system and fairing to streamline your feet for better swimming performance. It also has added buoyancy, which will keep you horizontal during your breathe-ups. The DOL-fin X-20 and Pilot are used with biking shoes, and this may be a good option for those with difficult feet (like me). The creator of the Orca DOL-fin (Ron Smith, see below) is working on different sizes. I know a few owners of the DOL-fin Orca and they are very happy with not only the product, but also the customer service. You can find more information on its performance at http://www.smithaerospace.us/.

The Orca Mk 1 and its proud creator.

The Orca Mk 1 and its proud creator.

 

And the improved version; the Orca Mk 2
And the improved version; the Orca Mk 2

The Lunocet

The Lunocet is the first biometric monofin available, modeled after a dolphins’ tail. The Lunocet is used with biking shoes and has a sophisticated suspension system that can be set to three different resistances. It can be disassembled to a smaller package than DOL-fin monofins (which have one long hydrofoil) because of the two separate flukes. It is competitively priced at 399 USD. This price is similar to that of carbon-blade bi-fins and monofins.

When I initially did my research for the Lunocet and asked around in Facebook Groups and forums it seemed like the customer service was not up to standard. I heard stories of backorders and orders that were not fulfilled. After speaking with the current distributor of the Lunocet, Jeff Watson, I found out that the distribution of the Lunocet changed hands in November 2014. Jeff understands that the manufacturer still has some of his own back-orders to fulfill from before November 2014, when Ted Camillio (the designer of the Lunocet) fulfilled his own orders directly. However, from November 2014 onwards Lunocets have been delivered worldwide and in a timely fashion, according to testimonials on www.ultimateswimfin.com, the new distribution channel. The testimonials are sourced from social media and some testimonials are from verified reviewers meaning that these are real people, with real social media accounts)

lunocet

The Lunocet

Pros and cons of different fin types

Bi-fins (80 – 200 USD for plastic or composite, 200 – 600 USD for carbon). Pros: versatile, agility, ease of transport. Cons: not as efficient as other options. Brand options: Mares, Cressi and Omer are sold in many online stores.

Monofins and Hyperfins, 150 – 300 USD for plastic, composite and fiberglass. 200 – 800 USD for carbon blade. Pros: Cheapest option specific for depth diving. Hyperfins are upgraded monofins with footpockets angled w.r.t. the blade. Cons: not good for surface swimming, only one amplitude. Brand options: Leaderfins, Waterway, and many more.

DOL-fin monofins (599 – 1200 USD). Pros: Extremely efficient, good for both depth and recreational diving. There are three types available. Indestructible compared to other fins. Can be disassembled. Cons: Heavy, not very good for penetration or kelp forests, expensive.

Lunocet (399 USD). Pros & cons? Please leave a comment!

personal experience

I used Cressi short bi-fins (scuba fins) for the first year that I dove. I did my first 30+ m with these, but after a while did want a better fin. I opted for Cressi Gara Professional bi-fins, made of plastic. They were better, but not as much of an improvement as I hoped (they were also the cheapest I could find: 80 USD). I did my first 40 m dive with these fins, but would get burning legs on any deep dive. I have only used monofins for pool practice, and never liked them very much. Then I switched to an Orca DOL-Fin Mk 1. A second hand modded with extra buoyancy, this fin was a project fin when I bought it and made me feel like a drowning caterpillar the first time I used it. After some additional mods and some practice it boosted my diving like nothing else. My bottom time has increased and my average operating depth has increased. I have not had burning legs coming up after any dive, while diving repeatedly to 30 meters. An additional advantage is that the Orca has added buoyancy, making for an extremely relaxed breathe-up. However, I am not as fast as a buddy and I have been a bit stuck in a kelp forest once. I have entered overhead spaces and as long as they are wide enough, it works well. For spearfishing around reefs, harvesting, and tight spaces I would not use the Orca but revert to bi-fins.

My only personal recommendation: spend as little as you can on your first pair of fins. Find out what you want in a year or two of diving and then go all out.

I had no financial incentive for writing this article. What is your experience with different fins? Leave a comment or start a topic in the gear forum.

 

Posting on Freedive Wire

Freedive Wire is a website that revolves around user content. That is why you can post articles on Freedive Wire, use the forums and connect with other divers. You can add and submit reviews of dive sites, gear, freediving resorts, freediving friendly pools, training groups, and so forth. Freedive Wire articles are approved and edited on the back end. The rules are very simple and can be summed up as ‘any non-commercial article that will benefit freedivers is allowed’. There are only a few rules:

  1. No pure promotion. That is, if you have your own product you won’t be allowed to write a product endorsement here. You are welcome to have your product reviewed by a third person though. However, if you have just done a course somewhere in the world, you are welcome to write a review.
  2. Be nice. No swearing, racism or general asshole-ism.
  3. Only upload images that are yours or you are allowed to use.
  4. We will never approve any article that promotes diving alone or general unsafe diving.

If you are planning to review a dive site, think of the following few things:

  • How to get there? Describe the entry, is it shore access, boat access, kayak access?
  • Is the dive site subject to current, boat traffic, anything dangerous?
  • What is there to see and at what depth is it?
  • Does the dive site have any amenities?

Here you can see how you can write an article on Freedive Wire:

 

In short, go to your profile by clicking on your avatar, click on the icon with the plus sign, and click on ‘my articles’. Now click on ‘new article’. Once your article is done you can tick the box for review and save. You will be notified once your article is approved.

Any questions? Let me know in the comments. Start contributing!

 

Challenges of cold-water freediving

The waters around Vancouver can be as warm as 20+ degrees Celsius. Unfortunately it is only the top five to ten meters of water that are this warm. Below that surface layer, which only exists in summer, it is a balmy 5 – 8 degrees Celsius (that’s about 40 degrees Fahrenheit). In other places in BC, there is no warm surface layer. BC properly qualifies as cold-water freediving. Because of the cold, BC divers are usually not in the water for more than 50 minutes in the winter, or two hours in the summer.

One of my first dives was at Porteau Cove with @toddkabaluk. I think this was in early February, 2014 (write up here). We were in the water for about 50 minutes. Tkaba was rocking the cold with a 3 mm suit and an extra 3 mm vest and I was in my old surf suit 9 mm on the core, 4.5 on the limbs). When we got out of the water we drove back to Vancouver with the heater in the car blasting. I spent the rest of the day having dinner sized meals in between naps. I don’t think I have ever eaten more in a single day apart from maybe the day after one of my 20 hour orienteering races. The cold is a force to reckon with.

Countering the cold with proper freediving gear

There are a few ways to manage the cold, but all solutions of course are temporary. The first thing to do is to make sure you are using an adequate wetsuit, at least 5 mm in winter, including warm booties and gloves (or mittens). Divers who want to have one suit to dive in year-round will often choose a 5 mm wetsuit. These can be bought with waist high pants or long john pants. The benefit of a long john is that you get twice the thickness on your chest and back and you can keep your core warmer that way. If you are not that good with cold or you want to maximize your winter dive-time you can get wetsuits as thick as 7.5 mm. I wear a 5 mm suit with waist high pants, and a 3 mm sleeveless vest underneath.

Keep in mind that every extra bit of neoprene you wear will be balanced with extra weights. If you are a natural floater, you are going to have a lot of weight on you if you are in a 7.5 mm suit. Remember also, that the suit compresses at depth and becomes negatively buoyant. If you are diving with a thick suit and a lot of weight you have to work hard to come back to the surface. Always be careful and mindful when diving with new gear.

There’s a freediving fin for every season

I used a pair of plastic cressi gara 3000 fins until a few months ago. Because I am a natural sinker and I have heavy legs, I always kicked. When I switched to an Orca Dol-Fin I found out that that kicking kept me warm. The Orca Dol-fin I use was originally owned by Eric Fattah (see his review on the Orca here) and he added 2 pounds of incompressible buoyancy to the fin. My bottom time with the Dol-Fin is longer, and my dives are more relaxed, but my total dive-time has decreased because I get cold faster. If I want to do shallower dives and stay in the water longer, I have to resort to my plastic flaps. Line-diving and depth training is a no-go in winter.

What to eat before freediving

Food and freediving is tricky. When you are in very cold water your basal metabolic rate needs to go up so that you can produce extra heat. What better way to burn off energy than burning sugars? They are easy to replenish (Gatorade or any other type of sugary drink will do) and easy to burn (they are dissolved in your blood stream instantly). There is of course a downside to this too. Digestion requires oxygen, and if you normally on a low sugar diet you will get a sugar high that will make it harder to dive.

I like diving on an empty stomach best. I usually do not eat before freediving in summer, but if I don’t have any energy readily available in winter I’ll be cold as soon as I get in the water. What is the right thing to do? Freeze, dive with a (half-) full gut, or keep a bottle of Gatorade in the dive float?

Other tips for keeping warm that I have heard but not tried:

  • Stuffing your wetsuit with heating pads
  • Keeping your wetsuit in an eski with warm water before diving (at the very least it helps being warm right at the start of your dive!)
  • Keeping warm weak tea in your float

Freediving in British Columbia, Canada

Here are some freediving resources in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. For those of you interested in diving the frigid waters of the northwest Pacific (yes it’s worth it), look no further.

Freediving clubs in Vancouver

The one active diving club in Vancouver is Vancouver Apneist. I have been a member for 2 years, I love the club, and if you are interested in freediving I highly recommend you to join. Of other Vancouver clubs I am not aware, but feel free to add a comment. There are also diving clubs on Facebook.

Freediving courses in and near Vancouver

There are 2 organizations that organize courses in Vancouver.

  1. Performance freediving international has been teaching courses worldwide for a long time and occasionally teaches courses in Vancouver.
  2. Oceanoid is a more recent addition to Vancouver. Apart from courses they also schedule dive trips. They teach the AIDA curriculum.

Freediving shops in Vancouver

There are no freediving specific shops, but the international dive centre carries a range of low-volume masks, freediving fins and other gear.

Freediving locations in and near Vancouver

Arguably the best dive sites near Vancouver for freedivers are Whytecliffe, Porteau Cove, and Ansell place. There are many more though, browse through our dive sites map to find them.

Freedive Wire: find freedivers and freediving locations

Welcome to Freedive Wire. Freedive Wire is a website by and for freedivers. We have a simple mission:

To connect freedivers worldwide, and to create a global database of freediving locations.

 

This means that Freedive Wire is a membership site (membership is totally free). Members can write reviews and find other freedivers in all parts of the world. Non-members have access to the reviews, but not to other members. Freediving is a niche sport and it can be hard to find local training buddies. As Freedive Wire grows, this will get easier, and you will be able to plan your next dive trip with the inside scoop from locals and detailed reviews of divesites.

Please check the FAQ for some help if you want to use this site but are experiencing issues. Click here to join.

 

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