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

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.


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

“Airlines Hate Me:” Bad Boy RyRy’s Guide To Surf Travel

Want to get pampered at the pointy end of the plane for free?

Aug 17, 2022


What Happens When You Borrow A Pro’s Board?

Joyride: The Shrizz from PANDA surfboards.

Aug 16, 2022


Mick Fanning Samples California’s Finest Local Produce

Mayhem at Lowers.

Aug 16, 2022

Mountains Died So You Could Surf

The value of sand.

Aug 15, 2022


UPDATE: People Are Still Surfing ‘La Jetee’ in Reunion Island

Returning to the best & sharkiest air wave in the world, as seen in Mod…

Aug 14, 2022

These Are Your Favorite (Female) Surfers

What the Stab reader survey teaches us about taste.

Aug 14, 2022


Kelly and Local Gal to Win Teahupo’o?

Local insights and a firing forecast.

Aug 13, 2022

These Are Your Favorite (Male) Surfers

Insights from the 2022 Stab Reader survey.

Aug 13, 2022


Fear And Loathing in Mainland Mex

Parker Coffin, Harry Roach, and the Roark crew embark on an authentic Oaxacan (surf) trip.

Aug 13, 2022

Tahiti Preview: The End Of The Road For 72% Of The CT

And hello there, blob of swell.

Aug 12, 2022


While Everyone Flocked To Tahiti, Kelly Stayed in Jbay

...And proceeded to rip the hell out of it on a "borrowed" 5-finned Tomo.

Aug 11, 2022


Can A GQ Cover Boy Take Out Teahupo’o?

Kauli Vaast is your incredibly handsome Tahiti trials winner.

Aug 11, 2022

Watch: Ramble On With Caity Simmers 

An action-rich tour behind the scenes of her triumphant first voyage to Oz.

Aug 11, 2022

PSA: Surf Filmers Not Welcome In Nicaragua

Cameras and drones are being seized on arrival, Stab spoke with two recent visitors.

Aug 11, 2022

Inside The Alternative Surfboard Marketing Machine 

Two of the biz's best — Matt Parker and Blake Peters — spill many beans.

Aug 10, 2022

The Tragic Parallels Between The Murder Of Ricardo Dos Santos & 8x World Jiu Jitsu Champion Leandro Lo

Two Brazilian sporting icons killed brazenly by off-duty police officers.

Aug 9, 2022

The Pick-Up, Vans US Open: In The Belly Of The Beast

Finger flips, shaping with Zion Wright, slurpees, Hawaiian takeovers, and the king of Surfline rewinds.

Aug 8, 2022

Albee Layer Discusses His Not-So-Budding Acting Career And The Upcoming Film “Sweet Adventure”

"Matt and Nora were tripping a little harder than I was just because they weren't…

Aug 8, 2022