FAQ

GENERAL

What exactly is Freediving?
Freediving is a form of underwater diving that relies on divers’ ability to hold their breath until resurfacing rather than on the use of a breathing apparatus such as scuba gear.
Is Freediving dangerous?
Not if done properly. That is why we dive in pairs (buddy-system), use diving lines (with a lanyard in case of low-visibility conditions), train regularly (to be aware of one’s limits).
What is shallow water blackout (hypoxic blackout)?
“Shallow water blackout is a loss of consciousness caused by cerebral hypoxia towards the end of a breath-hold dive in water typically shallower than five metres, when the swimmer does not necessarily experience an urgent need to breathe and has no other obvious medical condition that might have caused it.” – Wikipedia.
What is the water temperature in Victoria?
Victoria waters are certainly not among the warmest on the planet, but during summer you can find around 19C outside Port Phillip Bay, and up to 25C in it.
How deep is the water in Victoria?
Go outside the heads of Port Phillip Bay and you can reach -100 meters! However, conditions are treacherous, and basically not diveable.
50% of our social dives will happen in areas of depth between -5m to -10m, and 50% will happen in depths -10 to -25m.
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
What is ‘skindiving’ ?
Skindiving IS Freediving. It’s old usage dating from before wetsuits were available.

MEMBERSHIP

Do I need to take a course before joining?
It is not strictly necessary. However, learning how to do things right is extremely valuable, and we strongly encourage members to take a course in the first six months since joining the club. While something can be learned by other members during training, a course taught by a qualified instructor makes the whole experience of freediving all the more enjoyable, and infinitely safer.
I'd like you meet you guys before I join, how can I do that?
All are welcome to come along to any of our weekly training sessions at Wesley College. There you will get to meet some of our members, ask questions, and see how training operates. If you plan on coming along, please contact us first so we know to expect you.
Why do I have to pay for each training session when pool entry is cheaper?
The training fee covers the cost of hiring dedicated lanes for MFC training sessions, no to mention that swimming pools require insurance. For the cost-conscious member, we have different options that lower the cost of single-pass entries considerably (please look at the TRAINING page).

COURSES

Here is the list of qualified instructors offering courses in the Melbourne area.

Scuba Culture
Instructor: Chris Simmonds
Agency: SSI
Courses: SSI Freediving Basic, SSI Freediving Level 1, SSI Freediving Level 2, SSI Freediving Level 3
Website: http://scubaculture.com.au/

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.
Webiste: www.snorkelsafari.com.au

The Underwater Academy
Instructor: various
Agency: AID International
Courses: Freediving AIDA level 1 to 4, spearfishing
Website: https://www.theunderwateracademy.com

WaterMaarq Freediving
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.
Website: www.watermaarq.com.au

EQUIPMENT

(Unless noted, we are typically referring to our conditions here in Victoria)

What’s the minimum I can get away with? I have a lot of existing bit’s and pieces at home..

For open-water dives:
Full length wetsuit (this maybe your existing surfing wetsuit)
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, but its inevitable that you’ll start to freeze because of your wetsuit.

For training:
Swimsuit (any type of wetsuit will be better)
Mask & Snorkel
(or) Goggles & Nose-clip

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.
“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 a swimmers would. Thus, even though we are in a heated pool, you will still get cold very quickly.

What does a complete set-up contain?
After most divers initial learning and introductory phase, their kits will quickly contain the following:

Open Water:
– 5mm open-cell Wetsuit (Optimally custom made)
– Freediving Fins
– Snorkelling Fins
– Mask / Snorkel; low volume mask
– Booties, 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!

Pool Training:
– 1.5-3mm lined wetsuit (A triathlete wetsuit made for chlorine/pool training is great)
– Freediving Fins
– Low volume Mask & Snorkel
– Goggles & Nose clip
– Rubber Weight-Belt & Weights
– Neck-Weight

What is a Freediving Wetsuit?
A typical freediving wetsuit is made up of a two pieces; high-wasted pants, and a hooded jacket with beaver a beaver tale.
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 beaver tale 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.

What is an Open Cell Wetsuit?
A wetsuit is not made of ‘wetsuit’ – it is made of neoprene. Neoprene is the soft black spong-like material. In a typical surf wetsuit, the neoprene is lined with nylon on the outside to increase durability, then lined with nylon on the inside to aid in ease of wear.
(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 it’s original form. However, its also incredibly fragile. One misguided fingernail will rip neoprene in half! – To combat this, manufactures 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 your not moving around very much.
Along comes ‘Open Cell’ – Open Cell Wetsuits refer to neoprene that has NOT been lined on the inside. This mean 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 you 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!

What is Gold/Titanium/Black coating?
These are all names different wetsuit manufactures use to describe a coating they apply onto the Open-Cell. This is different to lining, which is an actual material (i.e. nylon) which is stuck onto the neoprene.
The purpose of the coating is to make the wetsuit easier to put-on. Some manufactures 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.
What thickness of Wetsuit do I need?
For 90% of the year, you will need 5mm Open Cell. (We say Open Cell because there is such a massive warmth difference than lined – refer to above!)
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.
Is there any difference between a Freediving Wetsuit and a Surf Wetsuit?
YES. Please see above – What is an Open Cell Wetsuit?
Is there any difference between a Freediving Wetsuit and a Spearfishing Wetsuit?
Yes and No. Both are typically two-piece and both can be lined or open cell, but a Freediving Wetsuit has high-waist pants, while a Spearfishing wetsuit has ‘Long Johns’ (singlet 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 Spear fisherman that dabble in Freediving.
Essentially, at a recreational level, both styles of wetsuit can be used interchangeably.

Is it worth buying a custom-made wetsuit?
A custom-made open-cell wetsuit is generally good value over one taken from the rack: for a bit more you can have a wetsuit that fits like a glove.
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:
Elios
InBlue
Polosub
Watermaarq
What type of fins do I need?
A typical freediving fin is a long blade, closed heel, and made from either plastic or carbon-fibre.
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 snorkeling 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 snorkeling 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.

What is the difference between plastic fins, and carbon fibre fins?
There’s pros & cons for both plastic and carbon-fibre fins. In a nutshell, carbon-fibre is a far more superior fin. The kick-response you receive from carbon-fibre fins is far greater than what you receive from plastic fins, that means, it’s propelling you further, using less energy than plastic. However – carbon-fibre fins are more fragile than plastic, and need to be treated with more care. Generally, they are also far more expensive too, $300 upwards.
Plastic fins are a great starting point, they’re economic, 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.
What is the difference between open-heeled fins, and closed-heel fins?
Open-heels fins are synonymous with Scuba Diving, they allow for larger rigid booties to be worn inside the fin.
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.
What is a mono-fin?
A mono-fin is a single fin, with dual foot pockets. Using a mono-fin you ‘kick like a dolphin’ keeping both legs in unison.
(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.
Should I get a mono-fin?
Before considering buying a mono-fin, ask yourself this;
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.

What’s the difference between a rubber weight-belt, and a webbed weight-belt?
When we dive, our bodies and wetsuits become compressed. The deeper we go – the more compressed.
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.
Do I need a dive watch?
A dive watch is not absolutely necessary, but many Freedivers like to know their statistics as they dive.
A good dive-watch will tell you things like dive depth, dive time, water temperature, surface time between dives and much more.

SOCIAL DIVES

Where do social dives take place?
Mostly around the Mornington Peninsula, Brighton area and Phillip Island.
Are there any sharks!?
In a word – YES.. HOWEVER.. Most sharks you will come across when diving are innocuous bottom-feeders (Port Jackson Shark, Banjo Shark, Draught-board Shark species), there are also a few Seven Gills between the Mornington Peninsula and Phillip Island that have been known to hit spear-fishers with their snouts to steal the catch, and there are reports of Seven Gills biting humans (no fatalities though).
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 File:

– Last fatality in Victoria: 1987
– Fatalities in the last 100 years in Victoria: 4
– Injuries in the last 100 years in Victoria: 18
– Latest recorded injury: a surfer in Flinders had some cuts to his hands in 2013, possibly bitten by a Seven Gill.

Are there any jellyfish or other dangerous animals ?
Jellyfish are common in Port Phillip Bay due to the presence of rivers, but though unpleasant, they pose no danger.
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.

What about currents, rips and the surf ?
Before any Social dive we look at weather forecast, the tide tables, and put our collective brains to work – we do not advertise a social dive unless the conditions allow a safe and enjoyable dive.

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.

What about careless humans, jet-skis, speedboats, etc ?
Yes. In reality, this is the real danger, unlike an improbable encounter with a Great White Shark!
While boats are far and few between on the Ocean-side, Water-crafts 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 water-craft nearby. This is also another reason to dive with a buddy!

What are the safety procedures on social dives?
You will learn all of these in your compulsory safety-induction to the club, but as a rule:

– 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

Is the water cold?
Please see above in General – What is the water temperature in Victoria?
Can I eat before the dive?
Yes & No.. It’s a balancing act; You do not want the body to be busy digesting food and blocking the downward movement of your diaphragm, but on the other hand, you need energy to dive, and a completely empty stomach may make you more prone to sea-sickness.
Most of us elected to have a good breakfast about two hours before the dive, but this is entirely personal.
Do you get thirsty whilst diving / Can I bring a water-bottle?
Definitively. The body’s reaction to the increased blood pressure due to the blood-shift is to make you pee; hence, the deeper (and for longer) you go, the more you pee, and the water balance must to be restored.
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!
What is the visibility like?
On a good day, Ocean-side, it may reach to 10 mt, but it is usually less, in Port Phillip Bay it is usually worse, apart from the Portsea – Quarantine Station area, which benefits from the influx of cleaner Ocean water at every flow tide.
How deep is the water?
It changes from location to location, but it is generally shallow close to shore. In Port Phillip Bay the maximum depth is in the Portsea – Quarantine Station area with 20-22 mt (the Portsea Hole reaches 32 mt though). Ocean-side, you may have to swim 600 mt off-shore to reach 20 mt. We usually dive between 10 and 13 mt.
What do I need to bring?

A tentative list:
– Wetsuit (see EQUIPMENT section above)
– Fins
– Mask & Snorkle
– Booties
– Gloves
– 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)

How long does a dive last?
As long as we like, but usually about 2 hours spent in the water. The ancillary activity of gearing-up, un-gearing take about 20 minutes each, and we usually have late lunch at a cafe afterwards.
If you add the time spent travelling, a social dive takes the best part of day. Shorter depending on where you live.
What time do you dive?
We prefer to hit the water late morning, but some spots require us to be in tune with the tides, and sometimes the weather dictates the schedule.

In the city during summer, it’s not uncommon for a quick social dive to happen after work!

Will I see any sealife!?
Yes! But depending on where the social dive is happening, will depend on the variety and quantity of sea-life you will see.

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.

What about bright corals?
Yes! Again, depending on location. Diving towards the Southern end of Port Phillip Bay, it is quite common to see bright corals.
May I spear-fish or gather Abalones, Crayfish, etc?
While we have no objections to spear-fishing or gathering within the boundaries of existing law and regulations, these activities distract from MFC’s organized social dives and hence we ask that you refrain whilst participating on club activities.
Is it worth it?
Come along and judge for yourself! :)