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Equalization - The 'nose' of it

Hello Friends

I hope you’ve had a stunner weekend! Did you manage to go diving? I feel my most able to do land when I’ve had my water time – my little say is ‘we are land based ocean creatures lol!

I’ve been thinking a lot about equalizing, especially with the water being so cold and at a point losing feeling in your fingers, so I thought I’d write about it.

Equalizing probably more than anything else, is the most important thing when diving because for all the breath hold you have, not being able to release that pressure means your depth work is affected,

In my experience, I've found that there’s a standing assumption in many spaces about people knowing they should equalize and I’m not sure why that is.. in my Discover Scuba course, this was spoken about, but when I went into my open water, maybe not so much, so when the pressure mounted, my body would swallow and the pressure would release, so the whole way down, I would swallow for the release which I later connected the dots to this equalizing thing. And when I started freediving, I still swallowed because I’d never equalized using my nose before and was afraid to change something that I’d become so comfortable with doing until someone shared how the swallowing ate at my breath hold ability and I’d have to let go of this crutch if I had intentions to go deeper, and so I did.

The Valsalva’s and the Frenzels

I didn’t know what these were but they were often referenced, maybe I never listened, so here’s the difference,

Valsalva is a method of equalizing where you equalize by pinching your nostrils closed (with your mouth closed) and you force exhale using the air in your lungs to equalize.

Frenzel is when you use the air in your mouth to equalize, you trap the air in your mouth by keeping the larynx closed and the party happens, this is a great tool in freediving cause the Frenzel can take you to 35m (my experience), and I’m still not sure If I’ve reached the end of my Frenzel yet. Adam Stern has phenomenal videos explaining the different ways to Frenzel and how they work, if you are not conversant with the Frenzel, he’s on YouTube and is your guy!

Why do we equalize?

The deeper we go, the higher the pressure against our bodies, at 10m, we are already at twice the pressure than we would be under at surface, at 20m, at 3x the pressure, this pressure would affect the parts of our bodies that have air spaces, internally being, our sinuses, our ears and lungs (lungs auto equalize), and externally, it would be our suit and mask that need equalizing. Here we are only talking about the internal part,

When we equalize, we help the body to push back against the external pressure in the water, we open up our eustachian tube for air to flow into the middle ear which then helps balance the external pressure by pushing the tympanic membrane back to its normal position (the blocked feeling when you need to equalize), anyway, as it pops back straight, your dive continues to be leisurely and this happens again and again. When you are unable to equalize, the tympanic membrane takes more and more pressure and you risk rupturing this membrane – we don’t want this, that’s why we turn back when we can’t equalize to diagnose where the challenge is.

Equalizing is an important part of freediving so I figured I'd put together a few tips for the next time you’re in the water,

8 Tips for effortless equalizing,

1. Don’t dive if you have a cold

2. Practice equalizing at home in front of the mirror and see how it looks and feels. You’ll be able to see your ‘adams apple’ move up and down, pushing the air from your mouth into the Eustachian tubes to equalize your ears and sinuses.

3. Never force it, blowing harder creates stress, the gentle hold of your nostrils should suffice, as long as air is not escaping you’re all good (you can check this by placing a finger under your closed nostrils and try exhale to feel in your mirror work)

4. If you’ve had trouble with equalizing in the past, don’t start with a duck dive to 5m where you’re skipping opportunities to equalize in the rush to 5m.

5. Start with free immersion without the duck dive, just hold on to the rope and pull yourself down, arm pull for arm pull, equalizing between each pull.

6. Equalize early and often, most people say its every 2m or so, I generally keep my hand on my nose the whole time and equalize… possibly the whole time.. in the free fall the frequency is less but before 10m I feel there’s a need for serious ‘early and often’

7. If you encounter a problem, stop and see if the air releases, if not, make a turn back to the top to try figure where the challenge is.

8. Take it easy, you’re in no rush, especially without your ears.

Give it a go and let me know if it helps!

Also, our Instagram Live Catch up! We spoke to Aurelia Carnets and did a Sunday hangout which was short but good!

Aurelia Carnets is a Freediver who has done some diving under ice, she's also a freelance writer and vintage shop owner.

We talk about Freediving, her experience Freediving under ice - where she did it, with who, what gear was needed and how she found the whole experience, this is a bucket list for me and we get all the exciting deeds in this live, click here to listen in,

The Ocean Tribe hangout was nice and short, sharing my highlights from the live with Aurelia Carnets, an update on Freediving courses, my visit to Kenton on Sea and my current state of self quarantine, you can listen here, do enjoy!

Hope you have a stunner week! Xx

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