Stab Magazine | Big Wave Breath Hold Training Is, For Most, Downright Dangerous
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Big Wave Breath Hold Training Is, For Most, Downright Dangerous

On tumbling beneath a pool’s surface and false confidence.

news // Mar 31, 2018
Words by Rory Parker
Reading Time: 2 minutes

If you’re a regular reader of the dribbel Stab continues to pay me to write, you’re likely aware that I am deep in lovin’ with freediving and spearfishing.

To the point that I have an obnoxious tendency to wax indefinitely on the subjects, if provided a willing ear or a captive audience. 

While I’m nowhere near top-tier ability, in either regard, I have many strongly held opinions:

The freedive community’s fear of dairy is ridiculous.

Hawaii needs fishing regulations that are far more strict than they are currently.

Big wave breath hold training is absolutely worthless, and, for most, downright dangerous.

Holding your breath is a mental game. A matter of ignoring the sensation resulting from buildup of CO2. The mere urge to breathe is far from the point of necessity.

Not until you’ve moved beyond diaphragm contractions, into the realm of blue lips, tingling fingers, tunnel vision, and euphoria, are you truly in danger of losing consciousness.

Our bodies can do amazing things. We all have the innate ability to hold our breath for more than three minutes, to dive past 100′. There’s no real value in practicing, other than learning to cope with the pain and fear that stem from apnea.

Thanks to the magic of the mammalian diving reflex, it’s far easier to hold your breath underwater than on dry land.

Your body doesn’t learn to conserve oxygen, your mind learns to accept consequences.

You can suppress your survival instinct sufficiently, through strength of will alone.

A freedive course will teach you these things. A good instructor will walk you through the physical sensations, help to internalize the fact that you’re doing fine, even when you feel like you aren’t. A great instructor will stress the fact that this newfound knowledge puts you in danger.

With greater confidence, comes greater risks.

So while underwater wrasslin’, as seen above, provides absolutely zero real-world benefits, I can understand its value to people like Mark Mathews.

Mr Mathews lives his life on the razor’s edge. Whether his training provides real benefits, or the mere illusion of them, is beside the point. He’s a high level man, whatever helps him feel more confident is worth doing.

If he told me his secret to surviving a lifelong series of below sea level beatings was hammering a soft boiled egg up his ass each morning, I’d reply, “Right on, Mark. Shine on you crazy diamond!”

But I wouldn’t rush to the store to pick up a fresh carton.

Big wave training courses are snake oil. No amount of tumbling beneath the surface of a pool can reproduce a beating from an overhead wave, much less a truly large one.

You can’t manufacture panic in a controlled environment.

Selling the notion that you can—that it will—to the general public breeds false confidence and empty bravado. Demonstrating ‘training’ methods, without including a disclaimer of how dangerous they are, is a recipe for unintentional deaths. One up, one down, is the rule. Always.

Learn how to revive a blackout victim before you do anything else.

Holding your breath underwater, even in the confines of a pool, is dangerous. People have died doing it. More inevitably will in the future. It’s not all fun and games. The consequences of a simple mistake are far too great to dismiss.

If you don’t believe me, there’s nothing I can do. Except urge you to, please, always use a spotter.

Being found floating face down in your backyard pool is only slightly less embarrassing than being discovered hanging from a closet rod, autoasphysxiated with a limp dick in your hand.

The cause and result are more or less the same.

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