Recently, several safety advocates made me aware of an activity that could become a new trend in underwater breath-hold training. Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver recently shared with Outside magazine his interest in extreme fitness challenges once a year. This year he and four of his hard-core friends relayed underwater for 5K with an 85.2 lb rock while breath-holding. Here’s what I wanted to know: where did this idea originate and, more importantly, how was safety addressed?
Running underwater with a rock while breath-holding may have started with the big wave surfers. In 2007, North Shore lifeguard and Pipe charger Dave Wassell was quoted in Surf magazine as saying, “Running rocks underwater is a popular advanced breath-holding workout – but it should never be done alone, in case of blackout.” I was happy to see the blackout risk with this activity addressed by Wassell, yet I, and other safety advocates, remain concerned as it was the only article amongst the several I read on this activity which addressed risk. It doesn’t mean safety isn’t being addressed, just that darned few are talking about the risk factor, which may get newcomers to the activity in trouble.
After Korver and his four buddies completed their underwater rock hauling relay challenge, a feat which took them five hours to complete, he admitted to Business Insider, “We were honestly worried about blacking out.” And with good reason.
Blacking out underwater while breath-holding is a primary safety risk for all who engage in aquatic breath-hold activities. Statistics on breath-hold fatalities captured by Divers Alert Network’s Breath-hold Incident Database reveal the importance of addressing this serious concern.
If you are interested in hypoxic training to extend your breath-hold, there are safer options than underwater rock wrangling. For surfers, Freediving Instructors International (FII) offers a Waterman Survival Course and Performance Freediving International (PFI) offers a Breath-hold Surf Survival course. Both agencies also offer various courses for freedivers who are seeking to improve their breath-hold times.
DiveWise also suggests Safety Guidelines to help protect you as you engage in underwater breath-hold activities. The unfortunate reality is that underwater breath-holding is accompanied by risks, however, these risks can be largely managed by adhering to responsible diving practices. Purchasing and consistently wearing the Freedivers Recovery Vest is another effective way to reduce your risk of succumbing to freediver blackout.
Whether you are practicing static apnea in the water, snorkeling, freediving, spearfishing, or running massive stones across the ocean floor, safety considerations need to be clearly and thoughtfully reviewed and addressed before you ever enter the water. Look out for each other and Live To Dive Another Day!