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Shallow Water Blackouts and Freediving: Separating Myth from Fact

At Deep Sensations Freediving, one of the most common concerns we encounter is the fear of shallow water blackouts. While any sport involving water and breath-holding has its inherent risks, the actual occurrence of shallow water blackouts in freediving, when the right precautions are taken, is relatively rare. This article aims to dispel myths, provide information, and highlight the importance of understanding and practicing safe freediving techniques.

What is a Shallow Water Blackout?

A shallow water blackout occurs when a diver loses consciousness due to a lack of oxygen. This usually happens during the ascent phase of the dive when the diver is closer to the surface, making it a seemingly paradoxical phenomenon.

The Rarity of Shallow Water Blackouts

It's crucial to understand that while the concept sounds terrifying, actual incidents of shallow water blackouts are rare, especially when divers follow recommended safety precautions. In most reported cases of blackouts or more severe outcomes, basic safety measures were overlooked.

Safety Precautions Against Shallow Water Blackouts

Safety is the foundation of an enjoyable and rewarding freediving experience. Here are the key safety precautions every diver should adhere to:

1. One up, one down:

Never dive without a buddy, and always make sure one person remains at the surface while the other dives. This way, if something goes wrong, immediate help is available.

2. Clear communication:

Before diving, discuss your plans with your buddy. Decide on your depth, time underwater, and signals for communication.

3. Conservative diving:

Avoid pushing your limits. It's always better to have a shorter, safer dive than to risk a longer dive that could lead to complications.

4. Know your limits:

Listen to your body. If something feels off or if you feel uncomfortable, it's a sign that you might need to adjust your dive or take a break.

5. Extended rest intervals:

After each dive, give yourself at least three times the duration of your dive to rest at the surface and properly oxygenate your body.

6. Never dive alone:

Even if you feel confident in your abilities, diving alone increases the risk of an incident. A buddy can monitor your safety and provide assistance if needed.

If you want more details on safety measures whilst freediving, explore our previous blog on snorkel and freediving safety here.

Rescue Procedures are Simple

In the rare event of a shallow water blackout, the rescue procedure is straightforward. If you notice your buddy unconscious, bring them to the surface immediately. You typically have a window of 2-4 minutes to get them breathing again, and they can recover fully with no lasting effects. This emphasises the critical importance of having a diving buddy.

The Importance of Proper Training

Just like learning to drive a car safely requires proper training, so does freediving. A certified freediving course will teach you:

- Proper breathing techniques before dives (breath-up)

- Efficient recovery post dives

- Self-rescue methods and how to rescue a diving buddy in emergencies

Understanding these aspects not only makes your diving experience safer but also enhances the overall enjoyment and depth of your dives. Book a course today.


Freediving is an exhilarating way to connect with the underwater world. While there are risks involved, like in any other sport, they can be minimised with the right knowledge and practices. At Deep Sensations Freediving, we emphasise the importance of safety above all else. If you're considering diving into the world of freediving, we urge you to take a course with us. Learn the correct methods, understand your body's reactions, and enjoy the deep blue with confidence and respect.

Dive safely, and let the ocean's sensations embrace you.

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