South Florida Freediving

Photography Courtesy of Walker Blanco
A South Florida freediver gazes towards a school of fish near the surface. Photography Courtesy of Walker Blanco
A South Florida freediver gazes towards a school of fish near the surface. Photography Courtesy of Walker Blanco

 

Imagine soaring effortlessly and silently through some of the most beautiful nature you have ever seen with incredible creatures all around you, all while the sunlight illuminates natural structures. Coming up for air you realize you’re not dreaming, rather you are freediving in the spectacular warm waters of South Florida.

Many freedivers are now using the discipline for spearfishing. Knowing the proper technique and having the right equipment are essential to enjoying freediving spearfishing in South Florida.

Recreational freediving is a form of underwater enjoyment where the divers rely solely on holding their breath until they resurface. With the right training and practice the freedivers can increase their breath holds for longer periods, entering a state of relaxation and control unlike any other. The longer the breath-hold the deeper they can explore. Freedivers need far less equipment than do scuba divers and enjoy more mobility and speed. There is no need for decompression, so freedivers may dive as many times as they are able in a day. With no distracting noise or bubbles, they can be stealthier and as a result can interact with more underwater wildlife. Because of these benefits, freediving has proved to be a great way to spearfish, adding to the challenge and sport of stalking your prey.

Recreational freediving allows for more efficient stalking of prey.Photography Courtesy of Walker Blanco
Photography Courtesy of Walker Blanco

South Florida has become a prime location for freediving, offering resources to learn the discipline, find proper equipment, and dive some of the best waters in the world. Austin’s Diving Center on US-1 in Miami carries many lines of quality freediving equipment with experienced and knowledgeable salespeople, who are avid freedivers and spearfishermen themselves, to help you make your selections.

To be properly equipped for spearfishing you will need a pair of decent freediving fins which are much longer than traditional scuba or snorkeling fins. The long length gives spearfisherman more thrust with each leg stroke, and surprising speed. A low volume dive mask is recommended for the serious spear fisherman. The small volume requires less air to clear the mask and has less drag than a regular mask. A weight belt is also necessary for aiding your descents so you are not always struggling with too much buoyancy. A wetsuit, good pair of gloves, snorkel, dive knife, stringer and other small accessories can make your time on the water fun and productive.

Of course a quality speargun (or two) is also important. Beginners may start with a pole spear popular with lionfish hunters, while others may use the Hawaiian sling which is most commonly used in the Bahamas. For the most efficient underwater hunting there are band-propelled spearguns which can fire spears with one or multiple bands. These guns are often used in South Florida by serious spearfishermen. Some can have lines and reels attached to the spear, and floats rigged to the guns. These are good when hunting bigger prey and in deeper water. Using a free shaft gun where no line is attached works well in shallow water on smaller prey but is not effective in deeper water. Another option is a pneumatic gun that propels the shaft with compressed air. The folks at Austin’s can really steer you to the option that is best for you.

Taking a level one lesson in freediving is a very good idea regardless of experience. Dennis Dasinger, a manager at Austin’s Dive Center, points out that even accomplished divers who have a lot of experience in freediving come away from classes with newfound knowledge which helps improve their time underwater and their enjoyment of the sport. The Level 1 FII course (open to newcomers who are strong swimmers and experienced divers) spans two days and includes breath holding techniques and exercises to improve even the most experienced diver’s performance. The course also covers many techniques and important freediving specific safety protocols. After the lecture and static breath holding in a pool environment, it is off to open water on day two. When the class is completed, participants not only have the knowledge to freedive safely but have gained the skills to be able to dive to a depth of 66 feet. World class instruction through groups such as Freediving Instructors International (FII) and Performance Freediving International (PFI) on the correct and safe way to freedive are also available in South Florida.

South Florida Freediving and Spearfishing.Photography Courtesy of Walker Blanco
Photography Courtesy of Walker Blanco

Once you have purchased your equipment and taken your classes there are varied groups you can join for camaraderie and even competition in the form of spearfishing tournaments. The South Florida Freedivers host meetings with guest speakers at a local waterfront restaurant and bar. The meetings “put together a group of like-minded individuals who honor the best of the sport: local fishing regulations and practices, selectivity and conversation, and above all diver safety.”

With perfect waters and the welcoming freediving scene in South Florida, there should be no reason not to jump in.

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