Holding their breath for minutes at time, plunging to incredible depths — the extreme sport of freediving is growing in popularity as more and more Montrealers look to push their bodies to the limit.
“The sport is exploding basically,” ApneaCity Freediving school president François Leduc said.
Leduc is an advanced freediving instructor and has been practicing the sport for over two decades. Over the past two years his school has seen a tsunami of interest.
“It’s probably the fastest growing water sport in the world right now.”
On a weekly basis pools across the greater Montreal area are turned into practice facilities for divers looking to hone their underwater skills.
The equipment is basic, a mask, snorkel and fins. No breathing apparatus or tanks needed.
Filling their lungs with air, divers can hold their breath for lengths of up to four to nine minutes at one time.
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Tapping into the human bodies mammalian dive reflex, swimmers learn to fight off urges to breath plunging 60 to even 90 meters deep.
The once niche sport has lept from the depths and become a fascination among the general public.
Leduc says the sports popularity is helping its negative image.
Deadly accidents have stained the image of the extreme sport with athletes losing their life in the pursuit of records.
Practitioners say while pushing boundaries is a part of freediving the majority of folks look to expand their personal bests, safely.
“We work within our limits in recreation and we push our limits during competition when were surrounded by safety teams,” freediving instructor Drew Nener said.
The goal in competition, Leduc says is to push the limits like in any sport but the vast majority of participants in his classes are doing it for recreational reasons.
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Following his love for the water, Guillaume Rabusseau has been practicing freediving for one year at the age of 40.
He describes the experience as a form of underwater yoga.
“There is really no sense of danger. It’s never about the danger. It’s all about finding this peace within yourself,” Guillaume Rabusseau said.
The sport doesn’t simply go deeper physically but mentally.
Composure and discipline under lung-crushing pressure is essential and the key to keeping your heart rate low conserving vital oxygen.
“When the urge to breath starts to creep up on you. Than it becomes a game of concentration and focus. You need to stay relaxed but at the same time focused, so you are able to continue for a couple extra seconds or even a minute,” Leduc said.
The majority of diver’s say once their face hits the water they go into a zen like state of meditation.
“There is no phones, there is no electronics. There is nobody talking to you. It is the only time in todays society where people can completely check out. It’s fantastic,” Nener said.
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