Learn Freediving: How I Learned to Free Dive the Easy Way


Ever since I saw the video of world champion freediver Guillaume Nery base jumping into Dean’s Blue Hole I told myself that I want to do that too. To learn freediving.

How Does Free Diving Work?

To those who have no idea what I’m talking about, our best friend wiki explains it as follows:

“Freediving (or free-diving) is a form of underwater diving that does not involve the use of scuba gear or other external breathing devices, but rather relies on a diver’s ability to hold his or her breath until resurfacing.”

In other words, freediving does not rely on the use of diving tanks. One freedives under one single breath, holding it for as long as the person can to get to the deepest part of the sea until the same person resurfaces back. The deeper one goes, the more he has to struggle to make sure he can withstand the pressure that will form in his ear. If one doesn’t learn to equalize properly, it could result in the permanent damage of one’s eardrums. One has to keep calm too since the pressure underneath will try to squeeze your entire body and one wrong move could be fatal to the inexperienced freediver.

Guillaume Nery’s  fictional freediving video that ignited my interest to learn how to free dive

What Stopped Me From Learning Freediving

As much as I wanted to learn how to free dive, I needed to face one problem. I didn’t know how to dive.

I’m not a skilled swimmer. In fact, I just learned how to swim without drowning when I joined a team building activity from work that involved cruising the islands that surround the Mactan Channel back in 2010. So when I realized that I knew how to swim already, I immediately thought of learning how to dive. And ever since, I’ve been very adamant in my desire to learn how to dive. But it seems that I couldn’t execute it properly.

A Hopeless Case In Diving

In my attempt to learn how to dive, I tried to recall memories from my past swimming activities. I remembered asking someone when I was still young how to dive properly. The reply I got was to push your body and swim downwards while you try to use your hand to dig deeper underwater. I’m vertically challenged, so that didn’t work for me. The force from my hands and legs were not strong enough to push me down.

A few years later, I asked someone again how to dive and the quick tips I got didn’t work for me. I just ended up forcing only half of my body down while my lower half stayed afloat.

underwater scene at Pescador Island

Then when my travel blogger friends visited Cebu and went snorkeling at Pescador Island in Moalboal, I asked one of them how to dive since he seemed to be very knowledgeable with that particular skill. He said I needed to empty the air from my lungs so that I could sink. Hmmm… I didn’t really know how I could do that but my desperate self tried it anyway only to find myself laughing so hard at each attempt. I didn’t get it at all.

None of what they were teaching me were making sense.

Still determined to learn how to dive, I grabbed every opportunity I got. The best epic failed diving lesson I experienced was during my trip to Biri last October 2012 where I tried to hold on to a huge rock just so that I could sink. Learning how to drown in the natural pools of Biri Island was one of the silliest things I tried in order to get the feel of diving.

I was a hopeless case.

Igniting My Burning Desire To Learn How To Free-dive

A week after I volunteered to drown myself in the natural pools of Biri, I got an invitation from one of my closest friends, Johnn, to join him and a few of his friends to celebrate his day on the beach. I discovered that just like me, he’s also crazy about that extreme sport and he wants to spend his special day with what he loves most – freediving.

When I told him of my dilemma, he assured me that he will help me learn how to dive.

Before we headed to the open sea, he had to teach me how to dive by utilizing the resort’s pool. When he saw how I was executing my dive, he gave me instructions on how to do it properly so that I could go underwater. At first, I was hesitant and I easily got exhausted because we were having the lesson in the pool. It was more difficult to dive because of the pool’s buoyancy. But I didn’t give up easily since I know that this was a very rare opportunity given to me.

I had to do my part too and I was really grateful that my friend was very patient in teaching me how to dive properly. When he saw that my legs were bent as I dove, the instruction that he gave me was soooo simple. Just straighten those legs when I flap them he said. And true enough, I went diving underwater in no time.

me and my Master Shifu Johnn after learning how to dive in the pool
photo credit to Lakbay Diva

What took me almost 2 years to learn how to dive after getting tips from friends, I only learned in less than an hour after my diving lessons with Johnn. His teaching technique was very helpful that I immediately learned how to dive underwater 😉 I would be forever grateful to Johnn for the diving lessons. For without them, I would still be probably struggling on how to figure out what to do in order to dive properly.

Learning How To Freedive

After the short diving lessons in the pool, my friends and I decided that it was time to head to the open sea to start with our freediving sessions.

Since I was still new to diving, I had to familiarize myself with the use of my snorkel and mask. I also tried a couple of dives underwater only to find out that I’d ran out of breath easily and how my ears hurt from the quick descent.

freediving session
trying to slowly equalize using a ladder; floating on top
photo credit to Lakbay Diva

I had to make use of the stuff I found underneath to learn how to equalize as I go deeper.

To tell you honestly, freediving is not easy. It requires a great deal of discipline and determination. Not that I am discouraging you, but this hobby or sport is actually dangerous and life-threatening if not executed properly. Which is why extra caution needs to be observed at all times. If you put your mind and heart to it, you will eventually learn the ropes of this extreme sport and will eventually love it.

And if you were to ask me, I learned it the easy way because I embraced the idea of learning this unique sport without any inhibitions. Although fear kept bugging me, I know my thirst for learning how to freedive was stronger than fear itself that I didn’t have a hard time adjusting to it. Of course, safety was my top priority every time I start diving. I don’t push my limits if I know I’m not feeling well or if I know something’s amiss. I know I need to act responsibly for my own being and for the rest of my companions.

Why Freediving?

I’m not what you could call the average sports-minded person. But I love to swim. After discovering a new world under during one of our snorkeling adventures in the seawaters of Moalboal back in 2011, I fell in love with the water world.

If given the chance, I want to explore more of the beautiful marine life that I discovered in Moalboal. The only way I thought of doing so was to go scuba diving. But I wasn’t born with a silver spoon and I find it a very expensive hobby to keep.

Ayn freediving, with no tanks, in one breath

Freediving, on the other hand, works for me since I don’t need to spend a lot in order to continue to pursue this newfound passion. Besides, it also helps me keep fit, which is a plus factor for me.

As I started getting the hang of it, I also enjoyed taking underwater shots whenever my freediving buddies and I practice.

freediving underwater photography
freediver Don and a fisherman nearby

Is Freediving For Everyone?

Freediving could be done by any healthy human being. As long as proper and safe freediving protocols are followed, one won’t have problems with this extreme sport. Just make sure that when you freedive, you go with a buddy to assist you in case you experience blackouts. It’s also best to read freediving manuals to prepare yourself.

Other serious freedivers would go to great lengths of getting a freediving license and I am hopeful I could get one too someday. I just need to save up for that as it’s quite expensive.

In the mean time, my freediving buddies and I are enjoying our own recreational freedives hoping to train harder as we outdo our personal bests and slowly improve our freediving skills.

freediving vs scuba diving
Lakbay Diva, the scuba diver’s tour guide underwater

What Freediving Gears To Buy?

When I started freediving last October 2012, I bought a pair of Mares Full Foot fins thinking that it would suffice for my freediving fins. My friends who were also interested to learn this extreme sport had been bugging me on where to buy freediving gears so that they could join us on our sessions. However, I have been delaying suggesting brands for the needed gears because I want to make sure I recommend the best brands.

It was also a good thing that I have not mentioned a particular brand to those who have inquired since the fins I bought 5 months ago got damaged. On our freediving session last week, my fins finally gave up on me. Now, I am bound to get myself new fins and I am not sure yet where to get one. The mares fins were only good for snorkeling and I need to get one of those long freediving fins soon. I am also bound to get a wetsuit after getting stung by a lot of jellyfish and other stinging sea creatures during that dive.

freediving gear
the very young freediver Pop Canata, who could freedive up to 50 feet! 😉

So if you were to ask me what freediving gears to buy, here are the list of items that you must invest if you want to get serious with freediving:

– freediving fins
– wetsuit
– hood (for the head)
– freediving mask and snorkel
– neoprene socks
– gloves
– diving watch

Those are the main gears that you need to invest on. But if you are still starting out and want to weigh in if you really fancy freediving, then you can just get the basic snorkel set (snorkel+mask) and any fins. But once you decide to go serious with this sport, I would really recommend that you upgrade your gears.

As to where to buy one, I’ll get back on that one since I’m still on the look out for the perfect dive shop to cater to your freediving gear needs.

My Addiction To Freediving

that’s me diving a not-so deep seabed 😉
photo credit to Lakbay Diva

Just a week after I tried to drown myself by carrying a heavy rock to sink in the natural pool of one of the rock formations in Biri Island, I found myself freediving the seawaters of Mactan without any formal training at all. And just barely 5 months after that incident, I could now freedive up to 25 feet (7.62 meters) with a breath hold of 45 seconds. Everything happened so fast. In a span of 7 recreational freediving trainings, with long intervals in between those practices, I managed to push my limits and had beaten my own records. I’m happy to know that my efforts have paid off. The records are not that great yet but with my strong determination to learn, I know I will reach my goal.

I intend to train harder in order to reach a depth of at least 50 feet (15.24 meters). I also need to learn how to equalize properly as I’m still struggling on that aspect but I’m positive that I can reach my goal in no time. I’m just thankful that I have freediving buddies who are as passionate as I am in learning to freedive and that we try to help each other in any way we can.

free diving
harlem shake with the Dive ta Bai group

So long as I surround myself with my friends whom I share the same interest in freediving, those supportive and awesome individuals, I know that learning how to freedive will be so much fun and enjoyable.

And to know what 50 feet looks like, here’s a freediving video of Johnn Mendoza as he took one single breath and started flapping his new fins to freedive under the waters of Maribago at Mactan, Cebu.

Freediving at Kontiki Beach Resort with Johnn Mendoza


  1. adja doi! hopefully we’ll get sponsors so we can get the necessary equipment. attention, marketers! if you need social media help, we’re just right here 😛

  2. this is a great activity indeed. not sure though if I can do this, takes a lot of courage. thumbs up to the harlem shake with the Dive ta Bai group!

  3. hey doi, nindot bitaw sa moalboal. we have lots of underwater pics there, especially sa panagsama trench we saw a turtle. nindot ug maka free dive didto kay ma appreciate gyud ang wall sa trench part.

    the only problem i have with freediving is that i can’t last long underwater, even with my mares fins. i think mupalit na lang ko ug weight belt sa dive shop.

    at least twice a week we’d go to romano alar beach resort in dauin to snorkel and camp, lingaw na mi didto. it’s only a quick drive from dumaguete where we live.

    lately we haven’t been posting underwater pics, pero nanumbalik na pud ang drive thanks to this very well-written post.

    you’re so awesome!

    • Hi Jude and Leny,

      Nindot man jud ilangoy sa ilalom especially if nice kaayo ang colorful ang mga corals.

      For breathing problems, try this technique na gishare ni Dean Frederciks http://youtu.be/v87uGLqmRgY 😉

      And remember, always practice safe freediving wherever you go ha. Thanks for dropping by! Oh, and let me know how the breathing goes once you practice what’s on the video 😉

  4. waaaaaaaaw! u did it!!!!! and the camera u used is super awesome 🙂
    I dunno how to swim that’s why Im scared of freediving but I’ll practice in the pool next time 😉

  5. Great post on free-diving!
    Been curious about it too but very scared. 😛
    I have taken SCUBA though, with hard-earned money I’ve saved, but I hope I’ll have the courage, and the support group to try out free-diving soon too. 🙂
    What were you using to shoot your photos, by the way?

    • Hey Jen! Yeah, read your article bout getting certified for SCUBA. Congratulations! 😉
      As for freedivers, I think there are many freedivers in Manila. You can try checking out freediving pages in FB 😉
      I do hope you get to try it out too 😉 If ever you travel to Cebu, let us know so that you can join us in case we’d have freediving sessions 😉
      I’m using an Olympus TG-1 camera 😀

  6. Hi Ms. Doi,this article has really given me insights because I am looking for a free-diving trainer here in Manila/Makati. I am a newbie swimming coach but I need to be trained further for skin diving/free diving. Can you refer someone, a free diving trainer who I can talk to about training here in Manila? I need to learn basic free diving skills and learn how to breath hold for at least 40 seconds to 1 or 2 minutes in two months. I will be performing underwater in an 8 meter (almost 21 ft) aquarium. I’m really hoping to hear from you soon. ^.^ Thank you.

  7. hi bai!, just found your blog and it was an interesting read.
    I found myself wanting to learn free diving the same way as you. I watched the video and the summer island hoppings as well. do you know where i can find a free diving instructor in cebu?

  8. Hi Doi,

    I found this post on google SERP, for keyword “freedive in Davao City”… akala ko nga tiga Davao ka, but when I completely read this post I assume tiga Cebu ka? (^_^)
    Please correct me if I’m wrong…

    I also have a first time experience with freedive … and it was an amazing feeling… you know it’s like flying above the live corals and swimming with fishes… and seeing all those big black sea urchin…

    On my first time I didn’t dive deep cause like you I have problems diving really I stay afloat too…

    Thank you so much for that tips – to keep the legs straight …

    Actually yun din yung sabi ng swimming instructor ko in freestyle dapat straight yung legs para mabilis ang push… nag enroll talaga ako ng swimming lessons just to be confident in open sea… but I never thought keeping the straight legs is helpful in diving (^_^)

    I’m handicap and my left leg is bend, I guess that’s causing me to have hard time to dive deep…(my right leg is normal)

    Thanks for this post and keep up the spirit!


    • Hi Aice,

      Yep. I’m from Cebu 🙂 Happy to know that you had a wonderful time freediving too. It’s really an awesome experience to be flying underneath the sea.

      As for your leg, have you tried wearing fins? Or are you able to wear and use one despite your bended leg? Because that can help a lot when diving. Fins can be an extension of our legs and can give powerful kicks when used in the water. I actually have short legs (kay putot man ko. haha) so it’s a struggle for me to dive but when I use fins, I can dive better. Maybe, if you can’t use 2 fins, try using one fin and see how it goes. But always keep in mind not to swim out when the current is strong ha and never swim alone. 🙂

      • Thank you Doi for replying…
        yup will not swim alone, actually I felt lost nga noon I was swimming with someone and we were in 60 feet, I was only on the surface swimming while my swim-mate was diving… I can’t see him that much cause everything seem to be so deep blue and the sometimes I can see mountains of corals but still I felt lost kasi I can’t also see the sea shore anymore… and felt afraid too… doon ko nalaman na I can’t swim alone (^_^)

        I still need to buy a fins mahal lang nga more than 2k yung nakikita ko dito… tapos isa lang kasi pwede ko magamit (for my normal right foot)…
        sige lang baka may mag bless sa akin just in case nasira na yung left fin nila at working pa yung right fin. 🙂

        Take care and God bless!


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