A lot of this euphoria actually has to do with our bodies reaction to different gasses. Yep, you guessed it! Freedivers are just junkies, out for our next hit of natural gasses.
The Atmosphere that we breathe is roughly 79% Nitrogen and after about -60 metres the nitrogen concentrates in our brains and has a strong narcotic effect. It feels different for everyone. Some people hallucinate, some people feel drunk and some love the feeling and some don’t like it at all. I personally feel giddy as if I’d just had laughing gas.
The one thing that is consistent about Nitrogen Narcosis though is that the deeper you go, the stronger it gets!
If that weren’t enough, as your body utilises oxygen it produces carbon dioxide, which also has a strong narcotic effect on the brain. The ‘high’ that comes from carbon dioxide build up feels a little different. It makes you feel a little dopy, a little un-present and slow.
It might sound dangerous to be diving deep while all this is going on but by the time a diver is experienced enough to dive to the depths when narcosis occurs they are experienced enough to deal with it- kind of like being an expert drink diver.
The weight of all that water on top of you goes almost entirely unfelt. With training the human body is very capable of withstanding the pressure…and there are no nerve endings in your lungs. Usually if a diver ‘feels the pressure’ it is because their bodies are not adapted to the depths they are diving to or because there is tension in the muscles surrounding their lungs. The key to freediving is staying loose and relaxed remember.
So the next time you talk to a freediver and they romantically tell you about their relationship with the ocean…how they feel “ at one with ze ocean” and “a deep connection with ze water and nature.” You will know why.