By: Shamus Sillar
Whatever sporting endeavour you’re keen to indulge in, Singapore’s likely to offer it. (OK, maybe not nude volleyball.) Some are mainstream; others are less common – like freediving. EX spoke with Bernard Wong of Singapore Freedivers about this breathtaking pursuit.
Freedive Instructor (AIDA International, Apnea Academy, Pure Apnea)
Freedive Competition Judge (Pure Apnea, AIDA)
Underwater Photographer (Freedive)
Sporting Achievements: 1997 SEA Gold Medal (Cycling)
What is freediving?
Freediving is diving without the use of breathing apparatus. It’s a sport where every dive is done with just one breath of air. There are different disciplines in freediving, which are practiced both in the swimming pool and the open ocean.
Is it dangerous?
Like all watersports, there is a certain element of danger. However, the risks can be greatly reduced through education, and employing the proper techniques and safety procedures while freediving.
How long have you been doing it? How did you get interested in it?
Around five years ago, I saw a documentary that showed freedivers diving to these great depths on a single breath of air, and I thought it could be the perfect sport for me: not only for the fun element, but as something to distract me from the stresses of my daily working life. I then managed to convince a few friends to join me on a freediving course. Later I decided to become an instructor so I could share my discovery of this wonderful sport.
How long can you hold your breath for, and how deep can you freedive?
I can hold my breath for over six minutes, and I can dive to about 40 metres.
Where have you done freediving? Are there good spots for it near Singapore?
I freedive mostly in Southeast Asia. Freediving in Singapore can be interesting, especially around the southern islands near Pulau Hantu, although water visibility isn’t the best. I like Cebu and Bali; they have deep waters and the marine life is plentiful.
Do you need scuba diving experience to freedive?
There’s no need for scuba diving experience; the concept of freediving is actually quite different from scuba.
How long do you need to be able to hold your breath for to do freediving?
I would like to say that there is little relation between the length of time you are able to hold your breath and the enjoyment and benefits you get from freediving.
Tell us a bit about the training sessions, courses and certifications you provide.
Pool sessions usually last two to three hours, and pool disciplines include static, dynamic with fins, and no fins. For open-water training and courses, we travel around Southeast Asia on three- to six-day trips. Our courses and training sessions are customised for freedivers of different abilities, from beginners to those who are training for competition. Singapore Freedivers works with AIDA International, Apnea Academy and Pure Apnea for certifications.
Why would you recommend freediving as a sport?
Freediving brings benefits not only in the form of exercise but also by giving you a better understanding of your body. It’s the only sport where you start from an aerobic state and move to an anaerobic state in a single breath of air. I find that freediving is a good form of cross-training for competitive athletes, and also a great form of relaxation for those who aren’t into sports.
Keen on trying out freediving? Here are four notable quotes that will guide you as you take that plunge into the beautiful unknown:
- “When you hold your breath and slip below the surface, you invoke a magical time of pure consciousness, safety and freedom, released from everyday worries and cares.” – Jacques Mayol, the first freediver to reach 100 metres
- “Freediving is about silence…the silence that comes from within.” – Umberto Pelizzari, former world-record holder
- “The scuba diver dives to look around. The freediver dives to look inside.” – Herbert Nitsch, freediving world-record holder and “the deepest man on earth”
- “It’s a completely different experience from life in the air element. When I’m diving, it feels like I’m being accepted into the ocean.” – William Trubridge, current free immersion world-record holder