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HOW TO GET INTO FREEDIVING-BEGINNERS GUIDE TO APNEA

When I speak about freediving to the everyday person, their immediate response is often, “That’s crazy! I can’t even hold my breath for 10 seconds!”. I used to be that everyday person, but even worse, I … I couldn’t even swim.

So when I say if I can do it, anyone can, I genuinely mean it. Now, you’re here because freediving/apnea has sparked your curiosity in some capacity, and I’m here to share some essential things to know when you begin your own journey.
Let’s dive in!

underwater photo of girl freediving with a dugong
What is freediving/apnea?

Freediving, also known as Apnea is a captivating and soul-stirring activity that draws you into the depths of the underwater world on a single breath, without any artificial breathing gear.
It’s not just a sport; it’s an art that seamlessly blends physical prowess with mental focus, offering a remarkable journey. Freediving pushes your limits, testing your ability to hold your breath, endure, and explore the depths, but also to control your mind. It’s a challenging yet serene experience, inviting you to embrace the unknown and uncover the untold beauty that lies beneath the surface.

WHAT ARE THE Benefits of Freediving?

  • Mental and Emotional Wellness: Both forms of Freediving demand a profound focus on breath control and mental discipline, fostering stress reduction and emotional equilibrium.
  • Physical Health: It’s a holistic workout that boosts cardiovascular fitness, enhances lung capacity, and tones muscles from head to toe.
  • Connection with Nature: Freediving nurtures an intimate bond with the ocean, fostering a profound appreciation for marine life and ecosystems.
  • Personal Challenge and Achievement: Whether pursued for relaxation or competition, Freediving is a journey of self-discovery, urging divers to learn, adapt, and conquer personal hurdles. Learn how to freedive and you’ll feel like you can do anything!
freediving girl with cuttlefish

One of the main reasons I wanted to become a free diver was because there’s many species of animals that if you want to encounter, you’re not allowed to scuba dive with (in some places). Like Orcas, Dugongs, different types of Whales, etc. Free diving allows me to have unique, once-in-a-life-time experiences with magical creatures!

What are the requirements to be a freediver?

Strong swimming skills are essential, including the ability to swim confidently and efficiently in open water.

Good overall physical fitness is crucial for freediving. This includes cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility. If you don’t currently have this, you can work your way up to them. Part of your first freediving certification teaches you how to train to improve your fitness.

Good mental health.
*If you’re a person with strong anxiety you might want to consult with a therapist before signing up for a free diving course. Mental health is one of the key components for this discipline and it can be dangerous if you suffer from anxiety.

How to become a freediver

Freediving courses are not cheap, so in order to get the most out of them, I recommend making sure you have good snorkeling experience. I consider this to be the base to getting certified. These courses don’t require you to have previous freediving experience per se, BUT being proficient in deep water is key.

Although you can technically learn to freedive on your own (never dive without a trained buddy for safety reasons, even in a pool!), I recommend you bite the bullet and invest in a course. Because although Youtube has a lot of educational videos on the subject, there’s nothing like firsthand experience. Especially when it comes to the safety aspect of it.
Plus, you need to be certified to be allowed to freedive on trips/boats, etc. Dive centers won’t even lend/rent you weights or other equipment without certification because you’d become a liability for them. It’s just not safe so just get certified!

*If you live in a landlocked town, you can look into the possibility of going on a certification trip.

What is the best freediving certification agency?

There are several freediving certification agencies. The most popular being AIDA, Molchanovs, PADI, and SSI. You can find more details to help you choose here.

I went with AIDA because it resonated more with me and because they host the biggest freediving competitions in the world so I trusted that. Also, most of the freedivers I admire are AIDA certified so it was an easy choice. Whatever agency you decide to choose, for me, the most important thing is to find a dive center/instructor with good references. Make sure you research for online reviews so you feel comfortable with your training experience.

A freediving-beginners certification typically covers theory, breathing techniques, stretching, static apnea, depth training, rescue techniques, and practical application.
On my first course I was tested on theory, breath hold (must hold breath for 2 min, static apnea), technique in general, depth (minimum of 12 meters). I did 2:09 minutes and initially went down to 15 mt (I can go down to 20 mt now).

If you’re in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, I recommend Prana Maya which is the freediving center I used for my AIDA 2 certification. The instructors there are very experienced divers, plus you get to train in beautiful cenotes (natural sink holes) which offer the perfect conditions to learn.

mexico-cenote-freediving-beginners-guide
How much does it cost to get freediving certified?

As I mentioned before, freediving courses are not cheap. They range from $250-$500 depending on where in the world you are. But it is a lifelong skill, so it’s definitely worth the price. It might sound like a lot, but it’s usually 3 days of training so, in reality, it is good value for money.

You know I only talk about what I know, based on my personal experiences so we’re going to focus on recreational freediving. Because competitive freediving is a different story. It’s about pushing personal limits and achieving new depths or apnea times. It encompasses various disciplines, each focusing on a specific aspect of depth, time, or distance. Competitive freedivers are athletes and they train rigorously to enhance their physical and mental capabilities, often aiming to set new records or achieve personal bests in various categories.

Recreational freediving is all about immersing yourself in the underwater world in a relaxed/fun manner. It’s not about setting records or pushing limits; it’s about enjoying the marine environment, observing aquatic life, and experiencing the tranquility of the underwater realm. This form of freediving is often likened to underwater meditation, offering a peaceful escape and a deep connection with nature.

Freediving Gear

  • Mask and Snorkel for freediving: Opt for a low-volume mask for superior pressure equalization and a clear view, coupled with a simple snorkel (without valves) for surface breathing.
    I’ve tried freediving with my high volume scuba diving mask and it caused me issue with equalization so trust me, you’ll need a low volume mask. It really makes a difference.
  • Freediving Fins: If you’re only starting your freediving journey, it’s ideal to start with long freediving fins. These provide efficient propulsion underwater. Once you’re more advanced you can opt to try a monofin.
  • Freediving Wetsuit: A freediving-specific wetsuit aids in buoyancy, warmth, and protection, with thickness varying based on water temperature. They are expensive ($400+) so you want to do your research to ensure you get the right wetsuit for you (there’s different types).
    I’ve worn wetsuits made for scuba and surfing while freediving, but they are not as efficient, making my dives a little more difficult than they should.
    I’ve also dived wearing just swimsuits, but just know that after a while, your body gets really cold, dangerously cold, even in tropical destinations.
  • Weight Belt: Counteract the buoyancy of your wetsuit with a weight belt, ensuring a smooth descent into the depths. This should sit over your hips and not your waist, so keep that in mind when measuring it and purchasing it. It should be rubber, not fabric.
  • Dive Computer: An important tool for monitoring depth, dive time, and surface intervals, offering crucial data for a safe and enjoyable dive. Being completely honest, you don’t need a dive computer for casual recreational freediving, BUT it is a very important and helpful tool that you can add to your freediving adventures.
girl freediving with a sea turtle
Practice makes perfect

Becoming a freediver is not simply attending a 3 day course (same for scuba diving). Like any other sport, practice is vital. If you don’t practice your skills regularly, you might lose them.
You need to practice as much as you can. This way you’ll become a much better diver and you’ll be able to enjoy your underwater experiences a lot more. This is the best part because once you get into freediving, you’ll never want to stop! Practice is not a chore, it’s a pleasure!


This article was written by a woman who dreamed of becoming a mermaid (and sometimes a dolphin) when she was a little girl, for others who played and dreamt of becoming mermaids too!
Hopefully my guide inspires you to explore the magical underwater world in one breath. You got this!

If you’re interested on trying SCUBA DIVING I also created a step-by-step guide on How To Become A Scuba Diver.

Happy diving! 🧜🏽‍♀️

You can follow my underwater and in land adventures around the world on INSTAGRAM 👈🏽

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