One important safety point that beginner spearos need to learn in spearfishing is hyperventilation. Hyperventilating is taking more air than your body is currently using. It’s that feeling when you can't get enough air (air hunger) or need to sit up to breathe. It causes a decrease in the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood and can make you feel light-headed, feel short of breath, and have a rapid heartbeat. So how do you avoid hyperventilating? Here’s a common myth about hyperventilating and what you should do instead:
Myth: You should hyperventilate before you dive
One of the incorrect systems you must avoid in diving is taking multiple breaths before you dive. This is because in two or three breaths you take, you already have a 100% oxygen saturation in your body. So what happens after this is that you are getting rid of carbon dioxide. As you take in more and more oxygen, your carbon dioxide level drops. Remember that carbon dioxide is responsible for your urge to breathe. So when you drop the CO2 out, your urge to breathe is not going to be there as quickly.
Now, where hyperventilation often gets people in trouble is when they hyperventilate and dive down underneath the water for a long period of time. Soon, the next thing they’ll know is that they start feeling the urge to breathe but they’re already down 15 meters. That's about a 15-second return to the surface and they haven't left enough oxygen because their safety systems have been destroyed. Their CO2 is so low. The urge to breath didn't kick in until the oxygen was also too low. And then they come up, they hit that top 10 meters and they blackout. This is where hyperventilation can get you into trouble.
Fact: Hyperventilation doesn't make a longer diveFreedivers and their quest for the longest swims have proven hyperventilation actually doesn't make a longer dive, no matter how comfortable it is. In fact, the top divers get in the pool and they do tidal breathing or normal breathing. They take one deep breath and can go underwater for a long period of time. But it doesn’t mean they’re comfortable underwater. However, part of the fortitude of a freediver is to be able to overcome the discomfort from the urge to breathe that happens very quickly because there's plenty of carbon dioxide in their system. So don’t hyperventilate when you dive, just take three or four slow, deep breaths is the most you should do. Learning the right techniques on how to hold your breath longer could also help you.
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