Freediving isn’t Free of Gear. We use a lot of Equipment!
Below we’ll list all the freediving gear all beginners and advanced freedivers should have!
Even though we don’t use breathing apparatus underwater, we do use a good selection of freediving gear. And not only do we use a lot of equipment for our freediving, no, because we try to be as efficient as possible to preserve as much oxygen as we can the equipment is often of high quality and well-engineered. In this article, we’ll list which freediving gear is essential to have. What kind of materials there are, and we’ll share some tips on choosing the right gear for your needs and budget.
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What is so special about freediving gear? Can’t you just take your old scuba mask and short fins and go exploring the reef on the nearest beach? Well, in fact, you can. And you should — if it is the best gear you have, there’s nothing wrong with it. Freediving is about having fun underwater, so use every opportunity to enjoy it and not let the equipment stop you!
But if you are still reading this text, you have probably taken (or going to take) a beginner freediving course, and you wonder what kind of gear will help you go deeper and add a meter or two on the line. Or maybe you want to feel more comfortable during your next freediving session. Or you keep wondering why your friends with long fins go down so much faster than you in your short fins from the local sports store. Or maybe you are just as crazy about quality gear as we are and want to know all the performance aspects of freediving gear to make the best choice when you buy a new set. Then read on. We are keen to share what we know!
How to Choose Freediving Mask?
If you can take a single piece of gear with you in the water, that would be the mask. Our eyes are not designed to see sharp underwater, although some sea tribes like Moken have adapted to do that. We write about that in our post about the history of freediving. The mask adds a layer of air, putting the eyes in their natural element. What’s wrong with the swimming goggles? Well, nothing, if you don’t plan to go deeper than a couple of meters. The pressure of water increases with depth, and at more than a few meters, the goggles would be pushed in your face so hard that you will have no choice but to go up. When you use a mask, you can equalize the pressure in the mask with your nose. That’s why all the masks have nose pockets.
What are the qualities of a good freediving mask?
- Low volume: When you dive, you don’t want to waste a lot of air for equalizing your mask – you want to use this air to stay down there just a little bit longer. A quality freediving mask is what we call a low volume mask and fits your face as close as possible.
- Soft silicone skirt: The better the quality of silicone of the mask skirt, the better it sticks to your face and doesn’t let any air out or water in. Good silicone won’t crack or change in colour with time. With proper care, it will look as good as new even after many years of use.
- Clear lenses made of mineral glass: When you dive with your buddy, he or she needs to see your eyes when doing your safety. Your eyes can tell your buddy everything about your physical and emotional condition. So try to avoid reflective or dark masks – they are usually only used in spearfishing. Be sure to check the mask visor’s material: masks with plastic ‘glasses’ are cheaper, but mineral glass is resistant to scratches and lasts longer.
What are the Best Freediving Fins?
There are two types of fins that freedivers use: freediving bifins and monofins. Bifins are a pair of so-called long fins, one fin for each foot. And a monofin is a single big fin with two-foot pockets. The freediving monofin gives the freediver more power, with a different swimming style, but it takes more time to learn. When people start freediving, they start with bifins because this style is easier to learn. When the freediver makes progress, he or she can learn the monofin swimming technique. We have a special monofin course for those who strive to learn this effective style.
Which features should you look for when choosing a good pair of freediving fins or a quality monofin?
There are three types of materials used for fin blades:
- Plastic: This material is used for beginner-level freediving fins is plastic. Plastic is cheap and resistant to tear and damage. The big disadvantage of plastic is that it is not elastic. The more elastic your fin is, the more efficient and easier your kicking will be. Try bending a plastic freediving fin and let it go. You will notice that it’s difficult to bend and is not very responsive. Also, plastic is quite heavy compared to fibreglass and carbon fins, which can tire you out quite quickly and then, for example, result in cramp.
- Fibreglass: Middle-level material, fibreglass is more elastic and lighter than plastic. It is also sturdy and resistant to abrasion. This is the reason why fibreglass fins are so popular with spearfishers who spend a lot of time lying on the rocks waiting for their prey. Fibreglass bifins are slightly more expensive than plastic but cheaper than carbon.
- Carbon: The pinnacle of all fin materials, carbon is the lightest, the most elastic and reasonably the most expensive material. The only drawback of carbon is that it is very fragile. Carbon fin blades are strong and elastic when bent, but a sideways hit can easily break the blades. That’s why carbon fins should always be packed in at least a proper bifin bag – even better in a special sturdy bifin hard case when transported.
- Compound and Sandwich Materials: There is a lot of possible material combinations for fin blades. The most popular: the fibre-carbon sandwich is a sheet of carbon covered with fibreglass from both sides. This compound combines the elasticity of carbon and the durability of fibreglass.
Other things to consider when buying freediving bifins
- Stiffnesses, flexibility and elasticity: The difference between flexibility and elasticity is that elasticity shows how fast the blade returns to the original shape when bent; flexibility relates to the amount of power you apply to bend the blade. As we explained before, elasticity depends on the blade’s material, and the more elastic the blade is, the better because elastic fins make your kick more efficient. With flexibility, it is not so straightforward. A rule of thumb is that stronger and bigger athletes can use harder and stiffer blades because they apply more power when kicking. But a soft blade is an all-rounder allowing to practice relaxed kick for everyone.
Usually, freediving fins and monofins come in 3 different stiffnesses; soft, medium and hard. Don’t buy hard fins. Hard fins are used in speed swimming where in a short time, with a lot of force, you will gain a lot of speed – which isn’t very energy efficient. Normally we advise beginner freedivers to choose the medium stiffness or medium/soft if the brand has the option. When you become a little bit more experience, your technique is good, then a softer blade is preferred.
Another consideration should be the primary use of the fins. Are you an active freediving instructor, then you might want to choose a medium stiffness since these fins are more responsive and fast and help you to follow your students down easily? Are you a spearfisher, diving a lot or perhaps doing many laps in the pool? You probably benefit from softer fins a lot more.
- Shape and length: Freediving fins come in all shapes – it’s not easy to tell which shape is the best. The general tendency is that bifins for freediving come reasonably long and narrow with an industry standard of 21 x 90cm. However, you can find longer fins and smaller travel-friendly fins, which are less efficient but easier to transport.
- Rails: The rails or tendons prevent the water flux from escaping off the side of the blade. Rails have to be firmly glued on the blade and be of reasonable width because if the rails are too wide, they make the blade less elastic.
- Foot pocket: For recreational freediving, look for the foot pocket with a soft skirt around the foot for more comfort and with a stiff sole to efficiently transfer the kick’s power to the blade. Foot pockets for competition freediving are stiffer and tighter because pro athletes can sacrifice comfort for control and stability. Foot pockets can be integrated with the blade or separate. A separate foot pocket allows changing the blade if you want different fin characteristics and can be detached from the blade to transport the fins.
- Weight: The lighter the fin is, the easier the kicking will be and thus will save more energy. The foot pockets usually determine the weight of the bifins since they come in many different sizes and shapes.
- Texture, prints and decals: If you want to make your fins unique and appealing, there are all sorts of prints and decals for the blades: textures, patterns, underwater creatures, anime and comic heroes, you name it. A decal also protects the blade from scratches and helps to identify you when diving in a group.
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How to choose the right freediving wetsuit?
Your freediving wetsuit or exposure suit is your second skin underwater. It keeps you warm, its smooth surface reduces the drag and helps you glide faster through the water, and it saves your skin from dangerous sealife like jellyfish tentacles.
Which features define a quality freediving wetsuit?
- Stretchy neoprene with open-pore: The suit’s material should stretch enough to give you enough freedom of movement. If the suit is too tight, it will constrict your breathing, and you will have to use more force to move, and underwater, more exerted force means more spent oxygen. Neoprene with open-pore sticks to your skin and ensures closer fit, saving you warmth and energy.
- Close fit: The better the suit sits, the less cold water gets inside and the warmer you are. As we already mentioned, it saves energy. Furthermore, nobody loves the feeling of cold water pouring down the neck.
- Two-piece suit with a hood: The problem of a single-piece suit is the zipper that is usually on the back. The zipper can’t stretch, which impedes the natural bending of the body. A suit of trousers and jacket has no zippers. It gives the freediver more freedom and allows them to move naturally. The hood on the jacket keeps your head warm and prevents the water from pouring over your collar.
- Neoprene gloves with grippers: Neoprene gloves reduce your loss of heat, and grippers help you work with the rope. Just don’t forget that it is harder to use your fingers for small work like tying knots with thick gloves. Pick the thickness of the glove that is optimal for the temperature of the water you are going to dive in.
- Neoprene socks: With 3-5mm, neoprene socks the foot pocket of the fin will fit tighter, and the edges of the foot pocket won’t leave chafings and blisters. Socks also keep your feet warm. On the other hand, wearing a tight-fitting fin with no socks can give you better control of the blade. So if the water where you train is warm enough, you want to consider wearing your fins barefoot.
Which Freediving Weightbelt and Neck Weights do you need?
Freedivers use weight belt and weights to make the body less buoyant and apply less effort to push through the first 10-15 meters of water. A good freediving weight belt sits tight on the hips and doesn’t impede the belly’s movement for breathing. That’s why it has to be made of elastic material like rubber or silicone. In case of an emergency, the diver may need to drop the belt quickly. For this purpose, a freediving belt has a quick-release buckle with a standard or marseille mechanism.
When you train in the pool with a weight belt, you may be struggling with your trim. Unlike in the open water, your body is horizontal in the pool, and it matters where the weight is positioned. The natural centre of weight or buoyancy of the human body submerged in water is not on the waist, but much higher, somewhere in the lungs’ area (because the lungs are buoyant and bull you up). When in the pool, it is better for a good trim to use a freediving neck weight instead of a weight belt. Freediving neck weights come in different shapes and sizes, so you are free to choose. Alternatively, you can also produce your own neck weight with a bicycle inner-tire, lead balls and a quick release buckle.
What is the best Freediving Snorkel?
When you chose a freediving snorkel for freediving, prefer a one-piece snorkel with no valves or other contraptions because simpler is more reliant. Look for a soft silicone mouthpiece for better comfort. Check that the snorkel can be firmly attached to your mask. If the attachment is not firm enough, the stream of water will carry the snorkel away when you start kicking. For the same reason, look for a buoyant snorkel or buy a special buoyancy sleeve. If the snorkel is buoyant, it won’t drown when you lose it but will float to the surface. The best freediving snorkel is a simple, soft and full silicone snorkel that is easy to clean.
You Want to Learn More About Freediving or Start Yourself?!
Join the Freedive Academy Panglao iMagazine, and every two weeks, we’ll send you an email with news, schedules for courses and online (free) events that everyone can join.
Freediving is an incredible sport, and it’s amazing what the human body can do. Subscribe to our iMagazine today and submerge yourself in a wonderful world on one breath!
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What are the best Freediving Buoy, Line and Rigging?
The freediving buoy, high-quality freediving rope and proper marine-grade stainless steel rigging materials make a training session in the open water more effective and safe. The buoy helps the freedivers to stay afloat and can store gear, drinking water and personal belongings. A good buoy should be:
- buoyant enough to support the weight of the line and at least one diver;
- equipped with handholds to make it easier for the divers to hold;
- bright in color so a passing boat can see it from afar and stir away from the training zone;
- spacious inside to store the length of the line and and drinking water.
The line is attached to the buoy on one side and has a load of weights on the other side to stay vertical. The line gives the freediver the direction to go down. The line is also essential in free immersion diving when the freediver pulls himself down the line with hands. A quality freediving line:
- is between 8 and 15mm in diameter for strength;
- is highly visible in the water;
- has clear markings for depth measurement;
- has enough weight to stay as vertical as possible;
- has bottom plate to avoid any risk of entanglement with the lanyard.
Last but not least, this section is the rigging. A good marine-grade stainless steel carabiner is what holds the buoy and the line together. And a good carabiner is what you rely on when you go down the line because it prevents the rope from detaching from the buoy, The sight of the rope going down because of a faulty carabiner is one of the worst things you can see when you are reaching the surface after setting a new personal best. So choose wisely! The rigging should be:
- designed to hold forces much stronger than you plan to apply;
- and be the champion in resisting rust because you will use it in saltwater.
How to choose Freediving Lanyard?
A freediving lanyard is a cable with velcro on one side and a carabiner on the other. It is used for more safety when the freediver trains on the line. The velcro is secured around the wrist like a bracelet, and the carabiner is locked around the line and can freely slide up and down. The lanyard ensures that the freediver stays close to the line. It helps to be more relaxed during the freefall stage. It also provides additional safety in case of an emergency. The safety lanyards come in many different sizes, colours and models. Usually, freedivers determine their favourites on weight. Some people prefer a lighter safety lanyard like the 2b free lanyard or the Octopus lanyard while most people in our center prefer to opt for the slightly heavier and more robust freediving lanyard produced by Lelang.
Which Freediving Computer should you buy?
A freediving computer makes a big part of the price of freediving gear set, and for a good reason. It allows the athlete to record personal best depths and helps to keep track of time through the training session. Freediving computer can measure:
- surface interval time;
- current depth;
- maximum depth;
- water temperature;
- current time;
- dive time.
The computer can also be equipped with a depth alarms function, stopwatch and countdown timer.
Do you want to learn how to freedive, take a freediving course, or have any other questions? Please feel free to contact us anytime? We teach freediving in the Philippines, but we also teach freediving online via nice and entertaining Zoom classes almost every week. The same goes for the instructor courses. It is now possible to take an online freediving instructor cross over, which we now teach almost every few weeks – we offer different options, but they are fun and entertaining.
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