We typically don’t choose an area based on depth, but based on the best conditions.
Realistically, below -25 meters in Victoria is non-existent / or not readily diveable from shore (you can get down to about -30mr in some lakes from shore though).
Instructor: Chris Simmonds
Courses: SSI Freediving Basic, SSI Freediving Level 1, SSI Freediving Level 2, SSI Freediving Level 3
Snorkel and Dive Safari Altona Beach
Instructor: Karl Graddy
Agency: World Series Freediving (WSF), associated with RAID
Courses: WSF Basic Freediver (pool), WSF Freediver, WSF Advanced Freediver, WSF Surfing Survival Course.
Instructor: Matt Anderson, Kim Dahlgren, Sunny Jeong
Courses: Lap 1, Wave 1, Wave 2, Wave 3
The Underwater Academy
Agency: AIDA International
Courses: Freediving AIDA level 1 to 4, spearfishing
Instructor: Marlon Quinn
Agency: Apnea Academy, Apnea International, AUSI, PADI
Courses: Certification courses including Snorkelling, Surf Survival and Freediving. Specialist workshops for equalisation and technique. Freediving Boat Charter Tours and Shore Excursions.
(Unless noted, we are typically referring to our conditions here in Victoria)
For open-water dives:
– Full length 5mm wetsuit (possibly 3-millimetre over Summer in Port Phillip Bay)
– Fins (snorkelling / Scuba style)
– Mask & Snorkel
– Weight-belt and weights.
This setup will get you going, and able to come along on your first club social dive.
– Mask & (or) Goggles & Nose-clip (Snorker not necessary, but helpful)
– Fins (any type would do to start)
Again, this setup will allow you to join in on your first training session, but it’s inevitable that you will start to get cold without a wetsuit.
“But everyone at a pool is only wearing a swimsuit!?” you say to yourself.. Correct, but they are a lot more active than we are. Freediving is such a slow, fluid, calm activity, our heart rate doesn’t reach anywhere near what swimmers would. Thus, even though we are in a heated pool, you will still get cold very quickly. Therefore, a Triathlon wetsuit (or the top of a 3mm one) is highly recommended, with weight-belt and weights as needed.
– 5mm open-cell Wetsuit (optimally custom made)
– Freediving Fins
– Mask / Snorkel; (possible a low-volume mask)
– Neoprene socks, typically 3mm
– Rubber weight-belt and weights
– Dive Watch (With specific Freedive mode)
– Dive Knife (in case of fishing line tangles etc)
– Dive Float & Flag
– Underwater Camera (GoPro etc) to record all your adventures!
– 1.5-3mm lined wetsuit (A triathlete wetsuit made for chlorine/pool training is great)
– Freediving Fins
– Low volume Mask
– Goggles & Nose clip
– Rubber Weight-Belt & Weights / Neck-Weight
The high-waist pants/jacket combo means there is double the thickness of neoprene over your vital organs, enhancing warmth, and also reduces the amount of water able to seep in.
The beaver-tale aspect of the wetsuit will seem strange to many, especially coming from a surf-wetsuit background, but you will quickly realise these are the warmest/most flexible wetsuits you’ve ever worn, and the beavertail is an essential element.
In Victorian waters a good freediving wetsuit is arguably the most vital part of your kit.
A good wetsuit will keep you warm all year round, and being warm means longer / safer / more enjoyable dives.
(Think of crazy fluo coloured wetsuits, that is green nylon lining, stuck onto black neoprene foam).
Modern neoprene as a material is incredibly stretchy – up to 600% of its original form. However, it’s also incredibly fragile. One misguided fingernail will rip neoprene in half! – To combat this, manufacturers use lining for durability.
The problem with lining though, is that your 600% stretch gets drastically reduced down to 150% – 300%.
It also lets water in your wetsuit move about between your skin, and the lining. That might seem like an absolutely tiny space in a good fitting wetsuit, but it’s enough to make you cold when you’re not moving around very much.
Along comes ‘Open Cell’ – Open Cell Wetsuits refer to neoprene that has NOT been lined on the inside. This means the neoprene is directly against your skin; 1) raising the stretch and flexibility 2) eliminating almost all water flow between your skin and the wetsuit, massively increasing warmth 3) making the inside of the wetsuit a lot more fragile, and 4) making the wetsuit more difficult to put-on.
Dry Open Cell neoprene will not slide directly onto your skin (think of those old computer mouse pads made of ‘wetsuit material’ stuck to your office desk. Peel it off the desk and slide it against your arm. Not pleasant? That IS Open Cell neoprene.)
However once wet/lubricated Open Cell slides onto your body like a hot knife through butter! So much so, that once going back to your favourite surf-wetsuit, it will feel like a struggle to put on.
‘Lubricating’ can be a big mental hurdle for the experienced waterman, but beginner Freediver. It seems ‘ridiculous’ after years of wearing a normal surf wetsuit – But seriously, once you start wearing an Open Cell wetsuit it will change your world! You’ve never even known warmth and comfort in the water until you try!
Lubrication is a simple no-brainer too; most of us use an empty soft-drink bottle – squirt a bit of hair conditioner inside – fill with water and shake – pour into our Open Cell Wetsuit – slosh around – and that’s it!
The purpose of the coating is to make the wetsuit easier to put-on. Some manufacturers claim the coatings are so good that you will not need any kind of lubricant.
In reality, divers have mixed reviews of these, and in the end, it’s actually just as easy/more economic, to use a standard open-cell and lube it.
During the hottest summer days – you may get too warm. There’s a couple of ways to tackle this – if budget allows, sure, get a 3mm Open Cell for the hot days. If not, then easy, pull the neck of your wetsuit and flush with cool water mid-dive.
You can also mix-and-match, 5mm jacket, 3mm pants.
Spearfishing wetsuits also tend to have more reinforced areas – chest pad for gun loading, knee pads etc.
In reality, many divers cross-over between both sports. We have Freedivers who dabble in Spearfishing, and there’s Spearfisherman that dabble in Freediving.
Essentially, at a recreational level, both styles of wetsuit can be used interchangeably.
There are not many Australian manufactures of custom-made, open-cell wetsuits, so you may consider ordering one from overseas. While we do not endorse any, members have given positive feedback about the products of these manufacturers:
This is what most divers will wear in open water.
For a pool based training session, divers may wear the same long freediving fins, shorter snorkelling fins, or even shorter swimming/bodyboarding fins.
There are no rules, and it will come down to whatever you feel comfortable in.
During our open water dives, some of our divers don’t wear freediving fins, opting for snorkelling fins or even no fins at all, and are still quite able to reach depths of -25m.
It really comes down to trial and error and personal preference.
Plastic fins are a great starting point, they’re economical, strong, and will typically last years. You will still have many great dives from plastic, but eventually may want to upgrade when you can.
In general, most divers will have at least one pair of plastic fins in their kit from their early days, and move onto carbon-fibre when they feel the need.
Closed-heal fins are typical across Snorkelling, Spearfishing, and Freediving. A modern closed-heel fin allows for a lot more propulsion per kick for the amount of effort used, thus saving you valuable energy.
Essentially, if you were starting off, you could easily wear open-heal fins if you already had some, but you’d want to look at upgrading soon after that.
(When used correctly) It is the ultimate compromise between exertion of energy, and propulsion. That’s why you will always see mono-fins within the competitive Freediving scene.
Are my current fins restricting me on what I’m trying to achieve? No? Don’t get a mono-fin.
Can I already swim 100m+ dynamic in the pool? No? Don’t get a mono-fin.
Can I already dive -40m+ in open water? (Which is not even possible in Victoria) No? Don’t get a mono-fin.
I have a large-surplus of cash and I like to buy stuff to try? – Yes, get a mono-fin.
I’m pursuing national and international competitive records? Yes, get a mono-fin.
In a nutshell, a mono-fin will not make you a better Freediver. It should be considered a high-end performance item. It will however aid a competitive Freediver moving to the next level of their ability.
Using a rubber weight-belt means that the belt will shrink as we become compressed, thus they will stay firmly around your waist. (Think of it like a rubber-band around a balloon that was being deflated slowly.)
Webbed/Mesh weight belts do not accommodate our bodies as we become compressed. The belts stay rigid, and as we descend upside-down, the belts fall away from our waist’s out of position and will need constant re-adjusting throughout the dive.
A good dive-watch will tell you things like dive depth, dive time, water temperature, surface time between dives and much more.
As for the really dangerous Sharks, Great White Sharks are known to be attracted by Seal Rocks on Phillip Island due to the seals who live there.
Some facts about Sharks in Victoria thanks to Australian Shark Attack Data (it seems to have stopped its data collection in 2016);
– Last fatality in Victoria: 1956 (the Harold Hoth disappearance is unlikely to have been caused by a shark)
– Fatalities in the last 100 years in Victoria: 4
– Injuries in the last 100 years in Victoria: 41
– Latest recorded injury: a surfer at Bells Beach suffered some bite marks to his leg in 2020.
Unfortunately, the Australian Shark Attack File, which is a better data source, no longer makes its data available to private citizens:
The commonly known poisonous Box Jelly fish do not live in Victorian waters. As for other animals, there may be the occasional Blue-ringed Octopus hiding in crevices (you’d really have to aggravate it to convince it to bite you though).
Sea Urchins are more common, and care should always be taken underfoot when your entering the water and don’t know what you could be walking on.
Remember also, that you will be wearing a wetsuit covering from head to toe: to be stung by any of the above other is VERY unlikely.
Having said that, every now and then there are waves and swell bigger than usual, the seabed may channel energy to some spots even on a clam day, hence circumspection has to be always exercised, especially when entering/leaving the water.
The knowledge of local conditions is paramount, and we choose our social dive locations only after having tested them extensively.
In general, we do not dive when the swell is 80 cm or higher, some divers can run this risk of becoming sea-sick whilst on the water, however many divers can also handle 1m+ swell easily. In the end it will come down to personal choice and ability.
While boats are far and few between on the Ocean-side, watercraft of any type are common in Port Phillip Bay – Jet-Ski’s, Yachts, Fishing Boats, etc.
To alleviate the risk we use a float and official dive flag to signal our position and keep a constant eye on watercraft nearby. This is also another reason to dive with a buddy!
– We practice, as when training, the buddy system: one down, one up over-watching
– We always bring one or more floats
– We follow the line of the float during the decent / ascent
– We do not lose sight of each other on the surface
– We bring mirrors and whistles (attached to the float) in case we need to bring the attention of boats
– We have a first-aid kit in the car
– We do not leave anyone alone: if someone is tired or cold, he/she is accompanied to the shore by a buddy
Most of us elected to have a good breakfast about two hours before the dive, but this is entirely personal.
Many divers bring and water bottle with a D-Ring Carabiner and attach it to the float, you could also bring sport-drink, water mixed with electrolytes, whatever you like. Even on a short 1 hour dive, you’ll be glad you did!
A tentative list:
– Wetsuit (see EQUIPMENT section above)
– Mask & Snorkle
– Float (unless someone else can bring it for you). As a general rule: 2 divers, 1 float
– Weight Belt with weights
– Sunscreen (there are gaps between the mask and the hood, hence, even while in the water, the Sun may burn you)
– Closed shoes when there is a walk before getting to the water (as it is often the case);
– Backpack or bag for your gear
– Knife: Many find it comes in handy. Used to cut fishing lines you or your float may become entangled in, or remove the spines of a Sea Urchin, etc.
– Camera !! (You can attach this with a D-Ring Carabiner to the float when not in use)
If you add the time spent travelling, a social dive takes the best part of day. Shorter depending on where you live.
In the city during summer, it’s not uncommon for a quick social dive to happen after work!
If we are diving depth off a buoy in Port Phillip Bay up-and-down the rope, sea-life is normally quite limited, you may see the occasional school of whiting or bait-fish in the blue, or sting-rays and spider-crabs on the bottom.
But if we are diving off any of the ocean beaches, sea life is normally in abundance!
Things we often see: Seals, Sea Dragons, Stingrays, Banjo Sharks, Dolphins, Cuttlefish, Port Jackson Sharks, Cow-fish, Puffer-fish, Whiting, Snapper, Flat-heads, Jelly-fish, Sea-Cucumbers the list goes on and on.