Frihet og mestring - hva fridykking er for en ung fridykker

Freedom and mastery - what freediving is for a young freediver

Rongevær coastal cottage is a very nice place to be.

Freediving is mastery, peace and relaxation for the hunter, but it can also be very important when life becomes demanding. We have had a conversation with Joachim, a young and reflective freediver who uses the freedom of the water to get a break from bad thoughts.

The first thing Joachim says - when I ask what he wants to share with us and you who read this article - is that he is concerned with mental health, and what freediving can do when you are having a hard time. Joachim is 13 years old and has a wonderful family. Both mother, father and older brother share his commitment to outdoor life in the sea. Joachim's older brother fell ill this summer with a diagnosis that has turned the family's everyday life upside down, with major challenges and difficult times.

Read what Joachim tells about freediving, hunting and life.

- What would you like to share with us, Joachim?

- First of all: freediving is great fun! Especially freediving, because snorkeling and freediving are two different things. Freediving is when you dive down, and preferably bring a harpoon and, and then you get food yourself, both for the family and for myself! It's not that hard either.

- Freediving is a sanctuary. I have a mentally ill brother, and I have quite a lot of bad thoughts about it, so when I freedive, I kind of get those thoughts away, and then it's kind of a sanctuary, FREEDIVING.

- And then, in a way, you get to explore what is underwater. When you stand above water, you may wonder, what is actually under water? I had no idea until I put the mask on and tried it on. It's not that cold either. If you stay active in the water, you will get warm. And with equipment that is good.

Young freediver on his way to the surface

On the way up from the depths

- Some may think; Bathing in freezing water? Are you crazy?? It's on a par with ice bathing, jumping into the water and staying there for a few hours, whatever. Who does that anyway? Just for some fish? You get it for free. Not that it is delivered on a silver platter. But you can decide for yourself which fish you want to catch. With fishing, you take what you catch on the hook. Here I can think "no, I don't really want lyre, but cod". You make your own choice.

- But why do we freedive instead of throwing a tank? The reason we freedive and use a harpoon is that we don't release bubbles. Because the fish have such a long line (the lateral line organ), and they are sensitive to movement. So, for example, every time we swim a little with our flippers, it's "drrr", and the fish reacts to that. The same with bubbles. There is otherwise little sound under water. Therefore, you have to be very careful and sneak in, even at night when they are sleeping.

Young freediver hunting along the bottom

Sneaking along the bottom to get in range is always exciting!

- What equipment do you use?

- I started my freediving career with a cheap 3mm suit. It was very cold. And it wasn't the dream start to the freediving season. The first time I tried it was so much fun, but it was so terribly cold. I didn't need a lead to dive either, I went straight down. And the second time I was in longer, then I had a little more movement, and the third time I tried again. Then I got a BARE suit that was 7mm, and it was very good. But I got a bit of a chafing wound, because it was a bit too big. Now I use an EVO Junior 7mm suit, it can really be recommended.

- And then I bought a harpoon, the seventh time I dived, and the second time I ever shot with a harpoon I caught fish. AND the third time. Then I got it on film too. And it is absolutely magical how much has changed in such a short time. With football it takes years and days to practise, while with freediving it just happens.

First hunting trip with own harpoon was great fun! And there was a catch too.

- When I wanted to buy a harpoon, we went in here at Frivannsliv and looked around. We looked at the Wild Pro 60 harpoon from Salvimar, and dad said that if it costs under a thousand, we'll go for it. Then I came home with a harpoon. When I started with the harpoon, it was arrow notched, but then I got an arrow with shark fins, and it's so much better. I couldn't charge the other one, but now charging is absolutely legendary.

- In winter, there is very good visibility in the water. In the summer there is a lot of algae, you never know what is down in the water. In winter there is probably 15 meters of visibility everywhere, it's great fun. It is very dark in the winter, but you have a lantern, so it simply becomes light, and then the cod sleeps. You can actually go all the way up and just pull off. You can simply pat it on the back. That's why we dive in the winter. The cod often likes seaweed. You usually see that the head is inside the pliers. And to find that cod, you can dive under the kelp. I learned that from Raymon.

- Now that the visibility is so good, we see flatfish, flounder, but not turbot, you don't see them. I don't know how many times I have swum past them, they are good at camouflaging themselves. Halibut, I don't know the location, it's probably in Lofoten "they like sæ bæst" :-) But there are plenty of flatfish here, I have spotted flounder. I have shot some and seen many of them.

Young freediver swimming with a harpoon along the bottom

Sometimes I like to just lay on the bottom and feel how the flounder are doing.

- Does dad hunt too?

- Yes. He has a bigger harpoon than me and can shoot bigger fish. He likes to catch the biggest fish.

- Dad had a compressed air harpoon and it's not the same. I am not allowed to shoot pneumatic harpoons (compressed air harpoons are defined as weapons). It's a bit more difficult to load the bowstring harpoon, but all in all the bowstring harpoon is better. I've been practicing a bit with a NERF gun at home. Then I have some weapon discipline, and I know what carrying a weapon is. I never aim at people. When aiming, you look along the harpoon arrow. Safety with the harpoon is important, and dad was a bit strict with how I swam with the harpoon at the start.

- And we don't shoot to kill for fun. We do it for food, for ourselves, or friends who like fishing. They'll be so happy, we'll give it away for free too. "Shouldn't we pay?" they ask. They want to pay. Fish is very healthy and.

- The fish tastes different to the one you get in the shop. I remember the first time I ate cod from the store. It wasn't the best first impression. Rather, shoot the fish yourself. And then I promised myself that if I shoot a fish, I will taste it. Dot. And then I tasted it, and it was much better than the one I bought in the store. It's straight from the sea, and there's something about it when you've shot it yourself. It becomes like home-grown food, you get more pleasure from it. And it's fresh. So it is highly recommended.

- It's not difficult either. The only thing you need to do is be patient. It is very cold in the winter, but you have 9mm suits and. It is easier in the summer when it is bright. Those who dive with an oxygen tank release bubbles, and that scares the fish away. With us freedivers, the fish come right up close to us. First the small fish come, then bigger and bigger fish come, until the "submarines" arrive.

Young freediver swimming in the water surface with harpoon

I have a lot of great experiences in shallow water, and I don't always have to dive down to get experiences.

- If a family had looked at freediving equipment, harpoons, and thought that this looked exciting, but perhaps a little too scary. What had you said to them?

- I would say "how do you know until you've tried?".

- Do you like fish?

- Yes, I love the lyre! I don't like cod very much, but I try to expose myself to it in such a way that I will like it. But it is more difficult to hit lyre than cod. The lyre is so thin from above. You can, but then you are good. The cod is very wide from above. And then you often hunt in a different way for lyres and the like. Then you like to dive down and lie still and wait, and then the fish will come very close. In particular, lyre and sei are curious and can almost tickle us on the nose sometimes.

- I have learned to gut fish, but not to fillet. But I want to. Filleting is "stage two".

- It's incredibly nice that you have a dad who can teach you all this?

- Yes, and Frivannsliv. Dad, he's good too :) Both of us together, we're a team. We're not experts either, but we like it. And then there is the feeling of mastery when you shoot fish. And as I said, you leave the bad things on land. And when you are in the water, because none of us speak "snorkel", then there are only strange sounds. And then when you come ashore, you have experiences that you share. And the rest of the day is forgotten by the experiences with the free diving.

- What is very good; Everyone at Frivannsliv is so kind. They are so helpful and. And they are so convincing, you believe them. Dad, when he started freediving he had normal plastic fins, he didn't know there were better ones. And then after that he bought plastic freediving fins. It was awesome. Then he went from those to DiveR, and then it was just like that..... wow. When I turn 18, I just throw open the door and shout "mum... we're going to Frivannsliv!"

- The beauty of Frivannsliv is that you get to try it out. You can borrow the equipment. Dad got to try those fins, they were pretty well used but they were awesome. Then he bought them.

- Do you know of anyone else your age who has started underwater hunting?

- No. When I tell this to someone at school, they don't quite believe me. Then we park outside the shop and go to buy some potatoes and such, and then they just ask "Have you freedived yet?". And then I say "yes". "Have you caught any? Can you show me the fish?". And then I can show off a four kilo cod, and they are completely shocked.

- I really want to motivate other children to do this, maybe there are others who also struggle with mental health. We didn't know this was so good for mental health. It's a bit like cycling, it costs a bit of money to do it, but it's worth it. It's not exactly speed and excitement, but it's very exciting. I also want more children, young people and adults to become safe in water so that there are not so many accidents. Norway has a lot of water, and the safer you are, the less likely it is that people will drown. And then they may be able to save someone in need if they are safe in water themselves.

- Will this be a family lifestyle?

- It changes your life in a positive way. Of course it will be expensive. But you experience a sense of mastery. And if you have a bad day, you can go into the water and think "damn you Joachim, you're good today!". You don't always hit the fish, but you get both physical and mental training.

- And then you meet all the nice people. I was at a gathering in Tysnes a little while ago. Then I learned tips and tricks, and I got to hear some of their life stories, and that prepares me. Then you learn, then you will be better next time. Then you learn more and more, and start doing things on your own. And you can learn them. "It's going on and on".

Weekend gathering with other freedivers on their way to the first dive of the day.
I like play and fun, and with a wetsuit I dare to give a little extra from the edge of the wharf.
I have met a lot of nice people in the freediving community, and the social aspect is just incredibly good.

- Buoy is extremely important, it saves lives. It can be dangerous (diving without a buoy). You can also get stuck in things, and therefore you must have a knife so that you can cut yourself free, and bend so that boats see you and know that you are in the area. If you get stuck at the bottom, your partner can pull you up by the line. And you can hang the fish on the line after the buoy. And the lead belt can be unfastened quickly, and then you can escape the worst situations. I tried to loosen the lead belt at five meters, I was up in no time.

- Are there any types of fish dad has said you can't shoot?

- Shooting salmon and sea trout is prohibited. And then it is forbidden to pick lobsters. In addition, there is a minimum target for halibut, but if I see a halibut, dad will get to decide if I can shoot it.

- I also see for myself what I shouldn't shoot. If I see a fish I've never seen before, I don't shoot it. I've seen roe crackers, but I don't have the heart to shoot them. I was at Rongevær, and then two marine biologists came to do research, and just as they arrived I saw a roe biscuit. Then I swam away, dived down and just picked it up. It is very hard, like a ball. I picked it up and showed it to the marine biologists. They are so cool, they can't swim at all!

- With freediving you explore a lot of the sea, I didn't know there was such a thing as roe crackers. Mum, she was terrified of water. She was afraid of water, darkness, seaweed, anything with water. Then she snorkeled, and began to expose herself to it. Now she can soon dive down. She's a world champion in exposure, if you ask me. Since my brother is in the hospital, mum and dad are having a very difficult time. But with freediving, they get a haven. And the next day I might think "I could probably swim a bit faster in that stream there", and the next time I come here I'll explore the the area, and the the area. You think about it and can get your mind on something that is fun rather than something that is difficult.

- And when you get to the same place, the first time there is a cod there, the second time there may be ten cod, the third time there is also a cod there. But you never know.

The stormy weather shows its best side, then you can't do anything but smile a little extra. Are we talking about the world's coolest mom and dad?

- Where is the first place you tried underwater hunting?

- It was on Karmøy that I dived for the first time. First time and third. The first time we went out into a big reed, and mum hates reeds. And outside the reeds there were a great many jellyfish. After we had dived we went for a quick paddle and I counted eight hundred jellyfish. But what's so good is that we can just bathe in it. Sometimes I come ashore, then I feel that I am a little swollen around my mouth, that it stings a little. The suit protects us underwater. And then you get fish lips.

- Do you have a favorite place?

- Hmmm... I do have a secret place, but I can't say that. I have Rongevær, and damn it, there are scallops there. In three days we caught forty scallops, although we left many behind. Now we have a huge amount of scallops in the freezer. It's not "my cup of tea", but I tried it. It can be both an appetizer and a dessert. It has a rather special taste, and then there is a slightly rubbery consistency. But you have to try. We don't take anything from the sea just to take it. Why take scallops when I don't like it? When friends come to visit and have it as a starter, it's just like "oh, thank you very much".

Young boys who have harvested scallops

I like to take friends with me on trips, and here Peter has been gathering with me. Self-caught food is very good.

- I can't stand crab, but mum and dad found it in Rongevær. But they only liked the claws, so after that we caught almost no crabs because of that. Since we only eat the claws, we let the crabs live. It's a bit violent to kill them just to take the claws.

- At Tysnes there was skate, lots, lots of skate. Then I took one to taste. But I discovered that only the wings had meat on them, and it was so sad, so after that we didn't take any more skates. And when we turned them over we saw the sad face. I don't take it back, I rather swim with them and enjoy the experience.

- Not everyone is going to master underwater hunting, but you mustn't start shooting right away, I was the only one who tried. I was ready for it. Then you have to know how to treat a harpoon and how to behave. It's not the harpoon that's dangerous, it's you who uses it.

I would very much like more juniors to start freediving. There is so much to see underwater, and it offers so many experiences. So if anyone wonders how we do it, or is unsure whether they are dry, they must contact Frivannsliv and ask. Or they can contact me and dad, and we can answer their questions.

Young freediver who has shot a cod with a harpoon

Fish on the arrow! A wonderful feeling that I hope other juniors can also experience.

Persons under the age of 16 should only use harpoons under the supervision of adults and after proper training and assessment by a guardian. Read more in this article.
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