Theory and practice of breathing in surfing
Freediving is a young sport in which athletes swim in length or in depth while holding their breath.
Freediver enjoys the depth …
Thanks to quality theory and practice, top freedivers can dive to incredible depths (~ 253 meters, Herbert Nitsch) and hold their breath for up to eleven and a half minutes. It sounds incredible!
Learning about such opportunities, lovers of big waves could not stay away and began to wonder “how do they get it?”. As a result, the so-called “Surfer Survival Courses” appeared. In these courses, experienced freedive instructors talk about how breathing works, how to increase the delay, what happens if oxygen runs out, how to provide first aid, etc. These courses have two goals: to expand physical abilities and increase confidence.
In this article, breathing theory will be described briefly – only for understanding the basic processes. If you want to dig deeper, then at the end of the article a list of used literature will be listed.
The human breath consists of inhalations and exhalations. In order to fill the lungs with air, the body uses intercostal muscles and the diaphragm (the muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities). When contracting, the diaphragm stretches the lungs, filling them with air. Relaxing, the diaphragm returns the lungs to their original position, pushing the air out of them.
In simple words, the respiratory process looks like this: the inhaled air passes through the respiratory tract and enters the lungs. In the lungs, gas exchange occurs: in the alveoli, the blood is saturated with oxygen and gets rid of carbon dioxide. Newly received oxygen with blood flow is distributed to all peripheral organs and tissues. The cells in the body take oxygen (O2) and release carbon dioxide (CO2). And so in an endless circle.
The main objective of the respiratory system is to maintain normal levels of CO2 and O2 in the blood to ensure vital functions. Changing the partial pressure of these gases in the body directly affects the frequency and depth of breathing. Of these two gases, the greatest influence on the breathing process is undoubtedly CO2, since a change in its concentration in the blood causes a reaction of the respiratory centers.
It is important to understand that the urge to inhale causes a high carbon dioxide content rather than a low oxygen content.
The main consumers of oxygen in the body are the brain and muscles. Most of the time, a person is oversaturated with oxygen, so neither the brain nor muscles are accustomed to save. The good news is that by effort of will, you can save from them.
Complete relaxation of the body and peace of mind are the key to low oxygen consumption.
Breath hold phases
1. Comfort phase
The duration of the comfort phase varies from person to person. On average, it lasts from 30 seconds to two minutes.
2. The phase of discomfort
The phase of discomfort can be determined by the presence of discomfort in the throat, compression of the chest and desire to swallow. Most people stop the delay in this phase. The good news is that this phase does not last long – from 20 to 40 seconds.
3. The phase of the struggle
The longest phase is the phase of struggle. In it, a person can be more than 3 minutes. It is determined by the onset of involuntary diaphragm contractions (contractions). The body, as it were, hints that it is time to exhale. At first, the contractions are soft and rare, but over time they become more frequent and amplified.
The video above is an ideal example of how not to hold your breath 🙂 There are many mistakes: this pose does not promote complete relaxation, constant movements of the hands, face and eyes waste oxygen in vain, and in the end the guy “engages” too much in contraction. A good rule is to ignore contractures and just watch them, but not compete with them.
4. Fainting (blackout)
Fainting occurs when a smart body is forced to turn off consciousness due to a lack of oxygen. If the body is at that moment in water, laryngospasm occurs (contraction of the muscles of the larynx in order to prevent drowning). In case the body is on land – a person simply begins to breathe. Loss of consciousness may be preceded by a state of lightheadedness, nausea, blurred vision or flickering of “flies” in front of the eyes, ringing in the ears.
Summing up the subtotals
From all of the above, the following became clear:
– Any person is able to hold his breath for a minute or more. All that is needed is to relax the body and maintain mental calm.
– The first urge to inhale does not mean that oxygen is running out, but mean that the level of carbon dioxide is increasing.
Application to Surfing
Now the fun begins. We will apply this to surfing.
How long do you think your longest wipeout took?
Remembering my own feelings, it seems that there are very, very long wipouts, well, I don’t know, 30 seconds? I will not torment, most of your wipouts are just seconds, from one to five.