Beginner's Guide to The Best Freediving Gear
Find yourself with an overwhelming urge to become a 'Freediver'? Are all of those tasty instagram shots giving you the urge to submerge? Are your extreme snorkeling skills just not getting you deep enough? We always recommend taking a freediving course before purchasing freediving gear. It will offer a bigger benefit in your diving because it's important to know how to use your gear first. See Don't Waste Your Money on a Freediving Course for more on training. If you've decided you're ready to purchase your first set of Freediving gear this is the guide for you.
Freediving vs. Snorkeling Gear
Freediving gear will usually be more expensive than snorkeling gear but not always. This is because it is of a higher quality. Freediving gear places a large emphasis on efficiency allowing to you go deeper for longer. We list pieces of gear in order of importance. If you're going to purchase one item at a time this is the order we recommend you do it in.
1. Wetsuit & Weight belt
Often overlooked as one of THE most important pieces of Freediving gear this is the one piece you're not going to want to cheap out on. Oceaner makes a high quality suit that is durable. If you want something that fits you better or is made of a more flexible neoprene you're going to have to spend more to get a suit that is also durable. Suits can range from $250 - $400 for off the rack suits or $450 - $900+ for a custom suit. Depending on your body type custom may be the best way to go.
As for weights and belt. Always go with less weight than you think you need. The idea is to be positively buoyant on the surface so you don't have to work hard at the beginning of your dive. You can always add more weight if you need it. Don't cheap out and get a nylon belt. your belt needs to be made of flexible rubber to compensate for the compression of your wetsuit. A good quality belt will usually run $30-50 with the thinner plastic buckle style being less expensive and the thicker marseilles style being pricier.
While necessary for freediving itself we recommend a snorkel as #2 because it will make a significant difference in your in pre-dive experience while costing very little. Get a basic "J-tube" also known as a garden hose with a mouthpeice. This will make your dives more pleasurable and your breathing more efficient. Stop by Kona Freedivers shop and we will show you how to wear it so you look like a pro. Its important that the snorkel be flexible to conform to your head.
Finally, the fins. Everybody who thinks of Freediving thinks of long bladed fins. Yes long bladed fins are great for Freediving but completely unnecessary. Many people Freedive without fins. There are 3 disciplines in competitive freediving that require the diver to be fin free. The Bajau sea gypsies spearfish without fins. Have I convinced you yet? Martin Stepanek can dive 70 meters deep with scuba diving fins. Ok so if you do decide to purchase some long bladed fins (most Freedivers own them) here's what we recommend.
For most beginning Freedivers plastic fins are the material of choice. Why? Price. A decent pair of plastic blades will usually run around $100-$159. Plastic fins are great for people just getting into the sport that aren't sure they want to seriously pursue Freediving. They offer more efficient propulsion than scuba or snorkeling blades without breaking the bank.
Mid Range option
For people that have taken a Freediving course or are able to dive past 20m/66ft you may wish to consider an upgrade. Cheap fiberglass blades will offer more efficient propulsion and last longer (if you are gentle with them) than plastic blades. The reason I say cheap fiberglass blades is because the more expensive ones are priced so close to carbon you might as well go for carbon. Inexpensive fiberglass blades run around the $200-$300 range
High-end "professional" option
Carbon is the best material for fins. A good pair of carbon blades will last a long time. After using a pair of carbons it's hard to go back to plastic. These are best for people deep-diving or swimming long distances. Also for people that are in the water regularly. These are typically not for beginning divers. If you know you're going to be a serious diver then they can be a good investment versus buying a cheap pair of plastics and then having to buy a nice pair of carbons later.
Alchemy V3 Blades
Assuming you already have a mask, it will likely work to begin with. If not this will probably be the first piece of gear you want to purchase. Most scuba and snorkel masks will be suitable for beginning freediving. The only exception would be the full-face style masks. The volume is so large in them they are too difficult to dive underwater while wearing. See our article about The Best Freediving Mask for more insight.
5. Freediving Gear Bag
Now that you have all of this Freediving gear you need a way to keep it all together right? You could make a Freediving gear burrito but it won't offer your supple wetsuit and shiny carbon blades much protection. This is going to be more about convenience than necessity.
Kona Freedivers carries 2 great options.
Salvimar fluyd fin bag. This bag is basic but functional. It zipper is not as durable as a higher-end bag but the price it right.
The best fin bag for most
Beuchat makes a really great bag that others have copied but none can match! The price to performance of this bag is truly outstanding. It is very durable and offers lots of storage and stowage options. It even has a built in cooler!
A gauge is great for more serious Freedivers. Typically beginner's won't need or be interested in a gauge. Aside from telling you your max depth a good gauge should be easy to read and easy to use.
Budget - Less than $200
Salvimar One Freediving Watch. Truly a budget guage this little guy is a stellar deal coming in $130 less than the next most expensive option. It does just what you would want in a budget guage and even has some basic underwater alarm functions. If you just want to know depth and surface time this gauge is perfect.
Mid Range - $300-500
There's a ton of mid-range computer options these days with new ones hitting the market soon. One sleeper option is the Cressi Goa. This new wristwatch style guage offers Freediving and scuba diving for only $329. Cressi's watches are the most reliable gauges we've ever seen. We have never had one fail.
If you're looking for something with more functionality that doesn't need to do scuba both the Suunto D4F and the Cressi Drake are great watches. The D4F is basically a D4i without scuba functions and the Drake has a ton of features that most Freediving watches don't have. Both are solid gauges with the ease of use edge going to the Suunto and the durability/reliability edge going to the Cressi.
If you have trouble reading your guage the Cressi Drake/Goa and the Suunto Zoop are going to be your best bets. The Zoop is a large wrist guage that functions the same as the Suunto D4i for almost 1/2 the price!
High End - $500-1000 and up
Probably one of the most compelling, high-end, Freediving and do everything else, lustworthy, inspector gadget style watch is the Garmin Descent SK1. It's the Swiss army knife of watches and Freediving is just one of it's many many features. If you can afford it and don't already own a smart watch this is the one. Suunto also makes some really nice Freediving watches. We carry the Suunto D5 which does scuba as well as Freediving and is relatively easy to use with lots of up-to-date features.