Photos: Will Lee-Wright, Hege Røkenes
In the last few years, Trondheim has seen a huge increase in the amount of people interested in exploring the underwater world. This has fuelled the creation of Trondheim’s very first freediving club, Trondheim fridykkerklubb, which is part of Norway’s National Athletes Union, Norges Idrettsforbund (NIF).
Freediving is the art of exploring the underwater world with minimal equipment and
supported by strong techniques. To many, this is a totally new and unknown sport. It
provides a beautiful way to further explore the Trøndelag region. If you only stay on dry
land, you’re really only experiencing a small part of the nature which surrounds us daily.
Most freedivers, when they say they are freedivers, are immediately asked two questions:
How long can you hold your breath, and how deep do you go? This is because for most
people, they think only of the more extreme version of freediving, Apnea. Apnea is, in short,
when you focus on holding your breath for a longer period of time while aiming to reach a
depth goal. Most members of Trondheim Fridykkerklubb, however, use freediving as a
gateway to experiencing the underwater world in a more relaxed manner. A huge part of
being involved in a club run on a voluntary basis is the social aspect, making new friends and
finding like-minded who you can share your passion with, it being going on ocean safaris,
taking underwater photos and videos, hunting or merely exploring marine biology.
Here in Trondheim we mainly practice in a pool during the winter months. This allows for a few things when training: you do not need to wear a wetsuit, thus you do not need weights and are more likely to be able to gain better breath control and work on depth increases.
Practicing without much equipment allows you to focus more on your body and the signals it sends you, focusing on your heartbeat, pulse and going into a meditative state. As such, when the sea warms up and you get your gear on and dive in – you are much better
prepared and can enjoy the underwater world and all it has to offer.
In regards to the art of holding ones breath, most people can easily train to hold their breath for a minute and a half after a couple of sessions with a qualified instructor guiding them. How long a person can hold ones breath is dependent on many factors; cardiovascular health being one of them, physical build being another and the most core factor being technique training. Many who practice apnea find yoga and meditation helps them to reach their goals. There are different variations of the sport such as dynamic and static apnea, and Constant Weight (CWT).
Dynamic apnea is when one swims, with or without fins, along the or slightly under the water’s surface. Static apnea is when one just floats face down in the water, slowing ones heart rate and pulse in order to achieve the longest sustained breath.
Within apnea, the discipline of CWT is practiced by taking a single breath then diving along a rope, with or without fins, trying to reach a preset or your deepest goal. People practice this without, or with either normal long free-diving fins or a mono-fin (they look like a dolphin
tail). There are other variations CWT and as a matter of safety, CWT should be practiced only by experienced divers, and always under supervision or at a special apnea training course.
Since freediving is a sport involving water, boats and the open environment, it should be
practiced with close attention to safety, and with other people to keep an eye on you.
Trondheim Fridykkerklubb always allocates a dive-leader who is in charge of tracking diver’s
locations, time when starting a dive and when they last surface for safety, and for record
keeping. We always go in groups of two or more who enjoy the same kind of dive so the
temptation to solo dive is non-existent.
Once the work of training and conditioning is done you’ll find a whole new world to explore
in a variety of ways through freediving. The equipment that is typically needed here in
Norway is a split 7-9mm wetsuit especially designed for freediving (this should always have a
hood to protect your head from the cold!), socks, gloves, ABC gear (mask, snorkel and free-
diving fins). Other than that, at least one of the group, if not all, should have a freediving
buoy which you hook on to with a safety line, this informs boats that there are freedivers
around and to stay away! A diving flag along with a knife for each freediver is also part of the
safety equipment. Other than that you might find it useful to have a freediving computer so
you can track your down and up-times, see how deep you have been and the conditions in
the water. We always travel with a first-aid kit, a phone in case of emergency, and use
smart-phones to check tidal and current conditions before jumping in the water. An
experienced freediver or an instructor can help you plan your dive.
Freediving is all about learning to know your body better, finding out how you can push your
limits and perception of what your body is capable of. It’s also an unique way to learn more
about marine biology, and see first-hand how land-based environmental mishandling
impacts and affect our seas. In Korsvika, for instance, we keep finding needles and cotton
buds, the latter we can only assume has been flushed down the toilets and made their way
through the water treatment barriers and on into the ocean.
We also regularly conduct under-water clean-up days, finding massive amounts of waste,
ranging from golf-balls, to porcelain, linoleum flooring, bikes and all kinds of other trash.
Being a freediver entails being a steward of and caring for the environment you dive in. The
rule we practice is that you pick up whatever we find on the sea-bed, thus helping keep our
beautiful underwater world clean for more than just aesthetic reasons.
Norway is a country brimming with natural resources which allows for rich foraging and
hunting, both above and under the surface. Many freedivers enjoy being able to hunt for
their own fish and seafood. Hunting in scuba-gear gives you an unfair advantage over your
prey; hunting while freediving puts you on more equal terms. You’re in the fish’s world and
they don’t need to go up for air! A freediver will then have to play the strategic hunter,
mixing in with the surroundings and focusing in order to be able to hunt at all.
A top tip, if you are keen on catching your own dinner, is that fish generally like areas with
strong currents. But keep in mind that you’ll be fighting the natural environment. A spear
gun or a sling are a diver’s most common fishing tools. Although, flounder and bottom-
feeders can also be caught using only a knife, if you’re a pretty good freediver that is.
Picking your own berries and mushrooms is a national past-time in Norway and there is no
reason why foraging should only be kept above the water. Crab, is pretty easy pickings and
can be found from about five meters and down. Crab is best in August and September when
they have had the summer to feed and are full of meat, and much more tasty. Harvesting
crab for just the claw meat is a no-no, and taking more than you can eat is heavily frowned
upon. Respecting the ecological balance of the underwater world is an essential element to
being a freediver, and freediving in itself is a great way to create more social awareness of
pollution and how it impacts the sea-life that live in this amazing world.
If this has peaked your interest and you want to dive into exploring the underwater world,
do get in touch with your local club to see what they have to offer. It’s worth noting that
Trondheim Fridykkerklubb is run on a voluntary basis and we are so lucky to have passionate
and committed freediving instructors. Our main aim is to encourage people, children and
adults, to try freediving, learn if this is something for them and become a part of our