Free diving's underground movement might have emerged into the welcoming arms of the media, but it retains a degree of mysticism. For those who aspire to explore the ocean free of cumbersome diving gear, there are few books to act as guides.
Two new offerings by authors from opposite sides of the world go some way to filling this gap. Dive Free by Ian Rodger provides a very individual European perspective detailing the authors experiences, while Freedive! by Americans Terry Maas and David Sipperly aspires to be the first comprehensive book devoted to free diving... destined to be the definitive authority....
Ian Rodger introduces Dive Free by saying that some might see it as a self-indulgent ego trip. I see exactly what he meanhis book is simply an account of his free-diving adventures around the world. Maas and Sipperly are accepted as masters of their art. With more than 60 years of experience and a host of qualifications and awards between them, they have also enlisted experts in physiology, equipment, technique, photography, game-hunting and deep diving as contributors.
Both books start with free-diving history - in Rodgers case his personal journey, though Freedive! starts a bit earlier, in 4500 BC, in fact! Under technique, Rodger again offers his own tips, while Freedive! passes on the expertise of a range of respected free divers, with numerous illustrated exercises devised to improve your ability and fitness.
When it comes to photography, Dive Free uses what I would call snapshots - albeit good ones, considering they were taken on free dives. Maas and Sipperly are better connected. The work of photographers Phil Colla and Jeff Rotman along with that of the authors is stunning, images of free divers interacting with dolphins and manta rays capturing the essence of the sport.
Freedive! explains the physiology involved in a reader-friendly style, with excellent diagrams, and safety is a recurring theme. Dive Free doesnt touch on physiology - nor, until the end of the book, the dangers involved. Even then there is no mention of that major threat, shallow-water blackout. There lies the difference between these books - Dive Free is an autobiography that will appeal to existing exponents, while Freedive! is the manual. If youre new to the sport, Maas and Sipperlys is the first book to read. Established free divers should find it an inspiration.
Brendan OBrien

  • Freedive! by Terry Maas and David Sipperly, Blue Water Freedivers (0181 941 1074). Hardback 146pp,£25
  • Dive Free by Ian Rodger, Holly Cottage, Marshwood, Bridport, Dorset DT6 5QG. Softback 94pp, 15