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April 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 29, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Fastest-Growing Segment of Diving?

freediving “is to divers what snowboarders were to skiers”

from the April, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Kirk Krack, who calls himself a "reformed Trimix instructor," says he is a total convert to freediving. For him, scuba -- and the tanks that come with it -- are a thing of the past. "Freediving has a yogaesque meditational aspect to it. It's a much richer, rewarding way to experience ocean and its inhabitants. You come out feeling like you've done some work, but you're on a mental high, like a runner's high, whereas in scuba, you feel tired, primarily because of decompression stress. Scuba is like getting in a Hummer and driving through the forest, while freediving is like putting on a backpack and boots to hike through the forest." He is one of a growing number of divers seeking to test the limits of human endurance by doing freediving. It's growing in popularity and attention -- both by the press and by the scuba industry. But while scuba diving fatalities have leveled off in recent years, freediving deaths are just starting to be officially tracked, and more than half of those fatalities are most likely going unrecorded.

Freediving fans like Krack love the adrenaline rush stemming from plunging, tank-free, to staggering depths, relying on weights or just gravity, and seeing how long they can remain underwater before what can be the hardest part: coming back up. Competitive freedivers have set records, such as diving to 597 feet on a single breath, and remaining static underwater for nearly 12 minutes.

And freediving is the fastest growing segment of the diving industry. That's according to the presidents of three freediving organizations that hold competitions for experienced freedivers and training sessions for novices. Robert King, a Fort Lauderdale-based professional freediver who is vice president of AIDA International, says that while it's still hard to get exact data for the fledgling sport, he estimates an annual growth rate of 20 percent. "It's significantly higher than the entry rate for scuba, which is fairly flat."...

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