To breathe is to be human. To dive is to be divine.

A Short Introduction to Freediving

When I tell people I dive, they automatically assume I mean scuba diving, the method invented by Jacques Cousteau, the famous French explorer who invented the first self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (S.C.U.B.A…get it?). But when I explain further that I dive without supplementary air, they almost lose interest. Isn’t that just swimming? Or at best snorkeling? What can one possibly see on one glorious, precious breath of air? The answer is: way more than you would believe.

Freedivers love the lack of heavy equipment needed to get into the water. No cumbersome air tank. No bulky regulator. No military vest-like buoyancy control device. In our cold, clear Pacific Northwest waters, all we need is a good wetsuit, a pair of fins, weight belt, and–of course–a mask and snorkel. With these items and a little bit of training, one can experience many of the same eye-opening scenes that a scuba diver can.

I have swam with a hundred young male sea lions flying around me like winged angels, playfully tugging at my fins and looking me straight in the eye, their intelligence shining bright. I’ve been engulfed in a “bait ball” of glittery silver euchalon as far as I can see in every direction. Literally hundreds of thousands of them. I once shared a few dives with a curious seal pup, still showing off its gleaming white fur. Friends have seen orcas up close, an experience with an apex predator I would not recommend. I’ve picked up a moon snail as big as my kid’s head off the sea floor, and plucked crabs out of their silty hiding holes for that night’s dinner. And I, dear reader, am not even what you would call a great freediver. Just a dude in a wetsuit.

At best, I am an experienced, intrepid snorkeler. I mostly dive in shallow water and play it extremely safe. But for others, freediving is much more serious. I could bore you with all the competitive disciplines that involve weights that plummet you down literally hundreds of metres. Instead, let’s focus on the adventurous exploration we do around Tofino and the rest of Vancouver Island. With skilled partners and over a decade’s experience, divers like Chris Adair of Bottom Dwellers Freediving regularly swim to depths of 20 metres on one breath. And sometimes they even bring a speargun. Occasionally, they even surface with a vibrant blue ling cod to cook. It’s fascinating to see what divers like Adair are capable of, but they practice meticulous safety procedures to do so. And you should too.

Bottom Dwellers offers regular freedive certification courses through both our Adventure Centre at Tofino Resort + Marina, and at dive sites up and down Vancouver Island. Reach out to them, learn the basics, train with a partner (always), and then find your way to a life-filled reef somewhere under the thin blue line that separates the select few of us one-breath explorers from the rest of the open-air world.