How to weight yourself for freediving
Learning how to weight yourself for freediving correctly is crucial. Putting too much or too little weight can make your dive not only uncomfortable but in worst cases, dangerous too. This freedive weighting guide explains you the essential rules and technics on how much weight you need for freediving and how to be neutrally buoyant!
Factors that determine how to weight yourself for freediving
There are different weighting methods that freedivers can choose from (depending on personal preference and/or freediving disciplines) wearing absolutely no weights to using a weight vest, neck weights or a combination of these, the classical and most popular way of weighting is wearing freediving weight belt with the correct amount of weights on it.
After choosing the right weight belt (learn why to choose rubber freediving belt) you need to understand how to weight yourself for freediving on the right way to make your dive easy and safe.
Key factors that influence how much weight you need for freediving:
- your body weight, body size/composition
- the thickness of your wetsuit
- depth of the dive
- conditions: salty or freshwater
- weather/sea conditions
How to calculate the amount of weight for freediving
However the correct weighting is unique for everybody and it is important to test out yourself how to weight yourself for freediving in different conditions, this rough guideline might help you:
Calculate with 1 kg (2.2 pounds) / every millimeter of your suit thickness plus add 2kg (4.4 pounds) extra. Based on 80 kg (176 lbs) of body weight and 3 mm wetsuit this means 5 kg/11 pounds weights. If you have slim body shape, add only 1.5kg/3.3 pounds. If you are larger, add on 2.5kg/5.5 pounds.
To weight yourself for freediving correctly requires regular testing that you need to do for your own safety. If you have different types of freedive wetsuits, calculate and test the amount of weights for each of them, and always check your buoyancy at the beginning of your training/freediving session.
Never take granted that your weight setup that worked one time will be good forever. Your body/conditions are always changing, take your time to find the right setup. Use more small weights rather than big ones. Small weights put less stress on your body, on your lower back, and you can distribute them better around the belt as well as allow you to make fine adjustments.
Weighting tips for beginner freedivers
Beginner freedivers use to test if they put the correct amount of weight on by using 2 techniques: either testing the buoyancy on the surface, or applying the ‘be neutrally buoyant at 33 ft/10m deep’. Both methods work great but don’t forget: always do it with your buddy, never alone!
Neutral buoyancy at 33ft/10 meters
Neutrally buoyant means you not sink and not float. To check your buoyancy, set up a line which is marked at 10 meters or use a freediving computer.
Why is it ideal to be neutrally buoyant at 33 feet when freediving?
The greatest change in buoyancy occurs in the first 33ft/10 m where the atmospheric pressure doubles comparing to the surface pressure. This means that the buoyancy of your wetsuit and the volume of air in your lungs halves. You are less buoyant than on the surface, but your weights are just as heavy.
If you reach the point where your suit is no longer buoyant, you can’t rely on your suit’s buoyancy to help you to float up, so you need to swim the weight of your weight belt until you reach the point where you are positively buoyant again and start to float.
Another reason why being neutrally buoyant at 10 m/33 feet is because this is the shallow water blackout danger zone. From this depth, you need to float up to the surface in case of any emergency.
Surface buoyancy test
Of course if you just started freediving, nobody is expecting you to dive to 10 m/33 feet deep and be neutrally buoyant there. There is another strategy to set up your buoyancy at the surface.
How to do it? Float in an upright position in the water with your fins straight down, hands by your sides. Stay relaxed without finning. You should be able to take a complete exhale and the water level should be between your chin and lower lip. If it is above your mouth, you have too much weight. If it does not reach your chin, you are too buoyant with too little weights.
Advanced freedivers who dive deeper follow a different rule; they fix their neutral buoyant point at one-third of the planned depth. But at the beginning of your freedive training, use the above-mentioned technics!
Hazards of incorrect weighting in freediving
Learning how to weight yourself for freediving is important in order to have safe, comfortable and enjoyable dives. What can you experience if your weighting is not correct?
Too little weight
Using not enough weight leads to a difficult dive. You will struggle to swim down, descending will be hard and requires too much energy and oxygen. You will get easily exhausted.
Too much weight
Putting too much weight on is clearly a safety violation. It will too make you descend smooth, but ascending will be painful and dangerous. Also, it increases the chance to have blackout. If this would happen, you will sink down because you are overweight and it will be very difficult/impossible to rescue you.
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AG is a certified diver and freediver who started to explore the underwater world in 2005. He enjoys sharing his experience of the best freediving destinations and equipment tips as well. Follow him on IG!