Be More Comfortable in the Water
Learn to become more relaxed in the water snorkelling and freediving by breathing more easily and comfortably with your snorkel.
It’s a common myth that freediving is only an activity for extreme athletes, spearfishing enthusiasts or people with natural swimming abilities in the water. It’s not true!
Freediving is for everyone, it’s a skill that lives inside of us from even before birth. Beginner freedivers are often amazed at how quickly they develop a new calmness and how pleasant their time is in the water. What’s the secret?
The best tip for snorkelers, very beginner freedivers or those who fear nothing more than the water, is to become comfortable floating in the water and breathing through a snorkel. Even if you’re not a good swimmer, this is a great thing to practice to become more relaxed.
How can you become more comfortable?
One way of getting started, is to visit your local swimming pool with an experienced buddy or coach. You can do this with or without a wetsuit, however a wetsuit is better because it’s warmer and more buoyant, helping you float with absolute ease. You won’t sink!
What equipment do I need?
Minimum equipment: Snorkel, mask (or goggles and nose clip), swimsuit
Best: Snorkel, mask, full-length wetsuit
At the pool
At the shallow end, it’s important that you can kneel or stand with your head above water and be able to hold the edge in easy reach at all times.
With your assistant focused upon you, prepare by calming down, and start to breathe above the surface using your snorkel, breathing through your mouth only. This will help you get used to the feeling of breathing through the snorkel before you enter the water.
About the time you think you’re just about ready, start to move so that you can lay out flat on the surface, face down, holding onto the edge for support. Your assistant should be there in contact to help assure you and feel more secure. It’s a smart move to talk with lifeguards too if you have any concerns or worries about trying to float and breathe through the snorkel.
Floating and breathing
Moving slowly using your arms and legs for support, continue breathing through the snorkel and shift your body so that your legs, torso and upper body are beginning to float on the surface.
As the lower part of your body begins to float, continue to breathe slowly and allow your body to become comfortable floating on the surface. Still holding on to the edge, you can slowly dip your face into the water (one hand closing your nostrils if you need to) and breathe through the snorkel with your mouth and face just under the surface.
In short attempts of 5-10-20-30 seconds or more, continue to work towards breathing through the snorkel whilst laying face-down and floating on the surface.
The end result you’re aiming for is to be able to float on the surface just breathing with the snorkel, with your eyes open or closed. Even the best freedivers perform this activity as a way of calming down and becoming relaxed on the surface. It’s something that you’ll continue to do as you progress as a snorkeler and freediver.
During WaterMaarq training and courses, this exercise is part of everything we do. If you’re really keen to become a more comfortable snorkeler or freediver then please contact us and we’ll assist as best we can.
During your attempts you may notice a few things:
Water entering your nose
You can avoid water entering your nose by using a nose-clip to close it or use a mask that encloses your nose and eyes. As you become more comfortable, work towards not using these items, it will help with your comfort levels. It will also help you to manage the pressure in your nostrils to prevent water coming in.
Inhaling through your nose
For regular nostril breathers, it may be a foreign activity to inhale and exhale through your mouth and snorkel. To begin it may take more concentration, but you’ll get there.
Holding your breath
Due to stress or discomfort, some may even hold their breath even with the snorkel. Avoid holding your breath at all costs, instead focus on relaxing your body and allowing it to float on the surface whilst slowly breathing.
Rapid shallow breathing
When stressed or uncomfortable, many people automatically begin to rapidly inhale and exhale, shallow breathing and creating more stress. Focus on slower more natural breathing, drawing air deeper into the belly and developing a rhythm of around 8-12 breaths per minute if it’s comfortable. Focus more on comfort than how many breaths you take.
Stiff, tense body and muscles
It’s normal in a new or uncomfortable situation for the body and muscles to become tense. In this exercise, it’s important to allow the body to float on the surface, using the buoyancy of the wetsuit or other buoyancy aids like floaties, float tubes, kick-boards or other devices that help you stay loose and floating on the surface. A wetsuit may be best. Allow yourself to feel the buoyancy of your body and the sensation of resting on the surface.
*Images taken during our Hobart edition of the PADI Freediver Basic course.
The advice provided in this article is of a general nature and your specific circumstances may demand a different approach or the skills of a professional coach or instructor. If you have any doubts, concerns or questions, please consult a professional and work with them to develop your skills and abilities before attempting any of the above exercises.
Swimming, snorkelling and freediving can be potentially dangerous sports if performed without proper instruction and use of correct buddy and safety procedures. For safety it is essential that all water-based and breath-hold activities must be done with a competent, safe and trained buddy. The content on this site should not be used as instruction, it is only there for general information. No written information is a substitute for formal training. If you are interested in taking up freediving or snorkelling it is strongly suggested to do a course and learn from an experienced professional. The reader assumes all responsibility and risk for the use of the materials on this site. Remember to always practice, train and dive with a buddy.