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What Freediving in the Coral Sea Taught Me About Myself

There are experiences in life that transcend our daily routine, experiences like your first time skydiving out of a tiny plane with a random girl you met only 30 minutes ago or the birth of your first child. Okay… I know, these are two MASSIVELY different situations but we can both agree that they offer us glimpses of something vast, powerful, and breathtakingly beautiful. Right?

Freediving in the Coral Sea was one such experience for me…

But beyond the dazzling display of aquatic life, the excitement of breath-holding, and the thrill of exploring the underwater landscape, I unearthed some profound personal realisations.

Today I’m going to tell you about five of those realisations, let’s dive in…

1. Freediving: A Dance Between Danger and Liberation

The Ribbon Reef Expedition was my first taste of freediving in the depths of the Coral Sea, and it introduced me to the world/science of freediving. The adrenaline rush from the danger/excitement of diving deep into the unknown with one single breath is real, and it is intensified by the possibility of Shallow Water Blackout (SWB) – the silent predator waiting in the final 10 metres to the surface.

Yet, amidst this danger, I discovered a space of tranquillity, a sense of liberation, a communion with my inner self that transcended the confines of the outside world, leaving me in a dreamlike but extremely focused state of being. Freediving, in essence, is a meditative practice, demanding your full attention and giving tranquillity in return.

2. Overcoming the Risk of Shallow Water Blackout: The Buddy System

The spectre of SWB danced around my mind like a ballerina in the beginning, but the “Breathless Team” guided me on how to mitigate this risk effectively, explaining the Do’s and the Don’ts with such simplicity and clarity that even a child could understand.

The use of powerful breathwork flows and techniques on the leadup to your freediving adventure is highly recommended, as you can actually begin to increase your body’s CO2 tolerance and breath hold time before you begin pulling yourself down the line or gracefully kicking your fins to reach depth. And yes, this can be done on land (or boat) allowing you to completely avoid any risk of SWB.

Now, before we go any further, I want to bring up hyperventilation and why you should NOT practise any form of hyperventilation while attempting to freedive…

Hyperventilation or over-breathing, a common cause of SWB, was a habit we actively discouraged, and for a SUPER good reason. Freedivers in the past used to believe that over-breathing might make you feel more comfortable initially, but we know for a fact now that it can compromise your instinctive urge to breathe and your breath-hold ability.

This makes you much more likely to experience a SWB during your freediving missions…

But the biggest game-changer for me was the buddy system. Not just for the obvious reason of having someone to share the experience with; it was about having an ever-watchful eye ensuring your safety. The buddy system isn’t a 50/50 deal, it’s a 100/100 commitment.

Your dive buddy is responsible for bringing you back to the surface and keeping a close eye on you during ascension from the depths to the surface, your dive buddy will literally save your life if you experience SWB.

It’s a sobering reminder and drills the importance of mutual trust and responsibility into your mind, fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared adventure.

3. The Mind: The Greatest Obstacle and the Greatest Ally

Before I embarked on my first freediving journey, I initially perceived that the physical challenges of freediving would be the biggest obstacle, these soon unveiled themselves to be mental hurdles.

I quickly discovered that my body could handle the pressure, the depth, the lack of oxygen far better than my mind believed it could. I found that the fear of the unknown depths, the worry about running out of breath, all stemmed from my mind rather than any physical discomfort.

Overcoming the mental barriers and learning to take complete control of my mind to embrace the challenge was a powerful lesson in self-belief and trust. Now I feel like I can overcome ANY obstacle that life throws at me with undeniable confidence.

4. The Importance of Equalization: The Key to Unlocking a World Beyond the Waves

While preparing to freedive, I discovered the significance of equalisation, and how to utilise what’s known as the “frenzel” method, which essentially teaches you how to balance the pressure in your middle ear to match the external pressure using only the air in your oral cavity/head.

Click here to learn how to equalise effortlessly online

I learned that a failure to equalise could lead to painful and even dangerous situations like barotrauma, which can cause burst ear drums, extreme pain and even death. Mastering the techniques of equalisation not only made my dives more comfortable but also allowed me to go deeper and stay longer, enhancing the overall experience.

As an added bonus, practising the correct equalisation techniques allowed me to become more aware of how my body works, unlocking a whole new level of control and understanding of the body and its functions/abilities.

5. The Human Body: A Miracle Waiting to be Discovered

Possibly the most profound realisation I had while freediving was the understanding of my body’s capabilities. Whether it was holding my breath longer than I thought possible or withstanding the pressure at depths I never imagined I could reach, my body never ceased to amaze me. It taught me that our bodies are capable of extraordinary feats, and that we can all be superhuman. The key is to believe in your potential and to train in the right manner, your capabilities are only limited by your imagination.


These lessons transcended the realm of freediving and extended into my everyday life, forever influencing my perceptions and actions. They reminded me of the power of trust in oneself and others, the importance of mental fortitude, the value of knowledge, and most importantly the miracles we are capable of when we believe in ourselves.

The next dive has me bursting with excitement and anticipation, I can’t wait to plunge into the deep once again to discover more about the world and myself. Are you ready to explore your depths? Book your course or experience here!

By Ry Stewart