Many times throughout our lives we have played in the pool or in the sea with the simple test of checking how long we hold our heads underwater without breathing. It is a game for everyone except freediving enthusiasts. A sports practice with few followers but very convinced.

Text: Tomàs Ibarz. Palma.

In Mallorca there is a club where you can practice indoor apnea (in a pool). It is in Son Caliu (Calvià) and throughout the island the number of practitioners does not reach thirty. It is attached to the Department of Sports of the Balearic Government.

By definition, apnea (or freediving) is an extreme sport that is based on the voluntary suspension of breathing in water while traveling long distances or descending to great depths. All without the help of elements such as oxygen cylinders. If we made an attempt today, we would reach a maximum duration of two minutes underwater without breathing. That is why it is surprising to discover that, for example, the current world record for freediving is 11 minutes and 30 seconds.

apnea en mallorca

Do you have to be a little crazy to be a freediver? Nicolai Gebhardt, president of the Club Apnea Mallorca, does not think so. He admits that he practices an extreme sport but that it is done with the necessary safety measures such as the obligation to always practice accompanied: “Apnea is neither a practice nor entertainment. It’s a sport. A somewhat philosophical sport. In any sport you have to do your best with a lot of willpower and mental effort. In freediving, if you enter the pool with the goal of doing something very big and you tense and tense your mind, you don’t get anywhere. Instead, it is very important to reach a very deep relaxation, almost in a trance. Without this mental preparation you cannot perform well in this sport. It is a mixture of sport, philosophy and meditation.

All freedivers admit that in the sea the difficulty is greater than in a pool.

You don’t have to be crazy at all. It has a reputation for being a risky sport but all the accidents that have occurred have been suffered by freedivers who had dived alone. It’s something we watch a lot. In our club it is absolutely forbidden to train alone. We are an official club of the Spanish federation and the Balearic federation of underwater activities. All partners are required to join. If you federate you access insurance, a medical certificate. It is a prerequisite to enter the club”.

There are 6 modalities of apnea. The reigning discipline is static apnea. It is the basis of everything. There is also breaststroke apnea without fins (let’s see who can go the furthest). And finally, dynamic apnea with flippers. All in the pool. In the sea there are 3 more. Going down with flippers, going down without flippers and the striking Full emotion, holding on to a rope with the condition that all the weight with which one helps oneself to go down then has to go up.

Balearic Championchip 2019 DYN

Balearic Championship. Foto: Club Apnea Mallorca.

“To initiate yourself you do not need any preparation or specific physical condition”

Nicolai holds all the current records in the Balearic Islands: 7 minutes and 47 seconds in static apnea, 132 meters in dynamic apnea without flippers. The world record is 244 meters in dynamic apnea without flippers. With them, 315. “Being a relatively young sport, the records fell easily, but now not so much”, says Nicolai, who adds: “To initiate yourself you do not need any preparation or specific physical condition. You can come without having ever done much sport, with your belly… If your mind is well and relaxed you can achieve remarkable things. In static apnea an older man with a belly has made apnea for several minutes. If you manage not to think about anything and leave your mind blank, you have already done 90% of static apnea. However, for advanced people there are some techniques. There is one in which the tongue is used to force more air into the lungs. With a lung volume of 7.2 liters, with this system the inflation can reach 9.2. During training you already identify the signals that the body sends you. The first is a certain discomfort due to the accumulation of CO2. The second is that the diaphragm begins to contract. At that point you know you have about 3 minutes left”.

In addition to this knowledge, the Balearic freediving champion is clear about the fundamental condition for practicing this sport: yoga. “Meditation is fundamental. I have done yoga all my life. Many practitioners come from the yoga environment. For a freediver, practicing yoga is better than running through the forest or going to the gym”.

All freedivers admit that in the sea the difficulty is greater than in a pool. And they make two recommendations to those who want to try it: better with your eyes closed and better with a nose clip, rather than cover it with your hand.