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One of the key things you are taught when you learn to freedive is how to duck dive. The duck dive is how we take our body from lying on the surface, to heading vertically down and under the water to begin the dive.
Perfecting your duck dive can be a tricky process and can sometimes take quite a few goes before getting it right. We are going to talk about common mistakes when duck diving for freediving and go through some tips to have you duck diving like a professional in no time.
As we mentioned above, the duck dive takes you from the surface to diving under the water. You will use this technique whether you are fun diving on the reef, or diving on the line. The idea is to make it as streamlined as possible and to minimize splashing.
1. Start by lying face down on the surface, with your snorkel in your mouth. You will be in the relaxation phase, getting ready to make your dive in the most relaxed way possible. 2. When you are ready to dive, take your snorkel out of your mouth and check your equalization on the surface before you begin to duck dive. (If your equalization is not working on the surface, it will not work under the water, so it is good to check). 3. Next, make a couple of kicks with each fin. This is to ensure that your legs are on the surface and not lower than your body.
4. To start the duck dive, tip the top half of your body downwards, so that your head is facing down towards the seafloor, and your lower body is still on the surface. Your body is in an upside-down "L" shape. At this point, equalize again. Make sure to leave your hand on your nose for easy equalization.
5. Then, lift both legs into the air directly above you. This will start to push you down and through the water. Equalize again.
6. As your body begins to be pushed down by the weight of your legs, you can bring both hands together and make a single pull with them to make extra power. This is a similar technique to the hand movement in breaststroke, but your hands will pull down in front of your body, instead of at the sides. Make sure to bring one hand straight back to your nose to equalize again after the pull.
7. Once your feet are under the surface, you can begin kicking with your fins and really start your dive – remember to equalize simultaneously.
This might sound like a lot of things to think about in a short space of time, but the more you practice, the better your duck dive will become. You will soon perform each step without even thinking about it!
Here are some tips to remember when practising your duck dive:
It is important to keep your chin tucked and not try to look up in the direction you are going. This is important for two reasons Firstly, stretching the neck can make it harder to equalize successfully. Secondly, stretching your neck under the water makes it more likely that you will suffer a trachea squeeze (where blood vessels in the throat rupture and the diver coughs up blood).
If you suffer a trachea squeeze you will have to take some time out of the water to recover.
The idea is to have enough weight on your belt so that you can descend easily through the water, but also be able to swim back up with ease. A freediving instructor can help you to figure out your perfect weighting. Being under-weighted can make it difficult to duck dive smoothly.
It is sometimes easy to know what we are doing wrong when we can see it for ourselves. Sometimes we think we look a certain way but then notice some mistakes when watching the process back in a video.
A nose clip can be used so that you do not have to have your hand on your nose when freediving. However, this is usually implemented at an advanced level once you have nailed the basics.
When you lift your feet up and begin to descend, make sure your toes are pointed so that your fins will slide through the surface of the water in a streamlined way. The more streamlined you can be, the less energy you will use and the longer your breath hold will be.
If you find that pulling with both hands means that you are sacrificing an equalization, you can pull with one hand and leave the other on your nose to equalize. You will not get as much power, but your ears are much more important.
Here are a few things that divers often get wrong when they are duck diving:
It is best to only start kicking your legs after your fins are completely submerged. Kicking too early will mean that you will not be streamlined, and you will make a lot of splashing on the surface. You will also be using unnecessary energy and oxygen.
The biggest mistake in the duck dive (and in freediving in general) is to not equalize enough. If you leave it too long to clear your ears, you risk straining the eustachian tubes and causing them to swell up. This will then make equalization next to impossible.
You could even risk bursting an eardrum if you do not equalize successfully. A burst eardrum takes a long time to heal and might even require surgery.
A common mistake is to not head in a straight line during and after the duck dive. If you head in a diagonal direction, you will not be in line with the dive line, or you will miss the reef or wherever you are hoping to explore on your fun dive. You can also become disoriented and confused.
Now you have all the information you need to duck dive like a pro!
If you want to learn more valuable freediving techniques to help you relax and improve your dive time, check out the SSI Training Techniques specialty program.