Where to free dive

If you are new to freediving, there are 4 good places we will recommend in South Florida, all in shallow water. If you are not new to freediving, you still will enjoy these sites.

The first is the shallow reef in Front of the Breakers Resort on the Island of Palm Beach. You can park at metered parking spots along the public beach ( pick the northernmost available), and then walk down the beach about 100 yards to the front of the Breakers Hotel. The first reef you can enjoy there starts about 50 feet from shore, and is the hard coral encrusted remains, of an old pier which was destroyed by a hurricane back around the 1930's. You need a dive flag, and you need to start in front of where the pier begins---its only about 60 feet wide, even though it goes out about 150 yards, you can miss it if you are to far North or South along the beach. There are two outcroppings of rocky rubble along the beach in front of the hotel----swim out in front of the rocks which are to the north. Generally, if its a nice day, you will see others snorkeling on this site, and a few boats anchored up on it, allowing you to find it with no effort.

The second place we will suggest is the 15 to 20 foot reef which trends South to North, and can be found about 150 yards out farther than the reef of the old pier. This is a series of limestone ledges and blowouts in an old reef crown. It has a tremendous amount of life on it, and is an excellent place for new or experienced freedivers alike. You will find it beginning just a little North of what would be straight off the old pier, and it runs as a series of well developed areas, separated sometimes by as much as 30 feet in between---when you finish exploring one section, you drift north with the gentle current for just a few moments, and then the next outcropping comes in to view. This can go on for well over a mile.

The third place we will suggest is the jetty along the Palm Beach Inlet. Ideally, you check the tides, and plan your freediving around the peak high tide. If you are new to freediving, and do not consider yourself a strong swimmer, Stay pretty close to the one hour of peak, high tide, while there is no current. You can get in up to an hour earlier, and the visibility will be getting pretty good, and incoming tide should not push you anywhere you really don't want to go. The hour after slack high tide, however, the current begins to sweep weaker swimmers out of the inlet, so this would be a time to be out of the water, or hugging the relatively still water right next to the rocks. Strong swimmers/advanced freedivers can beat this current in full rip, and enjoy the inlet regardless of tidal conditions----but the visibility will always be better near high tide. To see what this area looks like click here. Parking stinks for this dive---you will need to park at the Ocean Mall on Singer Island, after driving down to the extreme south end on Singer Island/Palm Beach Shore along the road that goes South along the beach from the Mall. You can drop your gear off at the end of the road, but local Police officers will ticket you if you park at any of the little mom and pop motels in this area. If you can't get someone to drop you off, you or one of your buddies will need to jog about a half a mile back to the jetty.

Advanced freedivers can enjoy all the Boynton Beach reefs in 40 to 60 feet of water, as well as the 60 Foot Breakers Reef ( although the Breakers 60 ft. reef is a no spearing zone if you are on a commercial charter boat) . Several Charter boats will take out freedivers and let them pull their own dive floats, as long as they don't get ridiculously far away from the scuba diving groups. Best choices for this are Goldcoast Charters for the Breakers Reef area, and either Splashdown Dive Charters or Dive Shop II for Boynton Beach (Splashdown is an excellent charter, but they get very nervous if we stray to far from the scuba groups (everyone drift dives in Boynton). The issue is their ability to protect their divers from ignorant boaters who don't see the dive flags----the charter boat watches for these jerks and plays "chicken" with them if necessary to deflect them away from the area the divers are in---thus the concern if freedivers start drifting 4 to 600 hundred yards away from the scuba groups. Dive shop II has a 6 pack boat which they are actually using for dedicated bluewater freediving , as well as reef trips. You can call Dive Shop II at 561-734-5566, or Splashdown at 561-736-0712.

And the BEST freediving we have enjoyed so far, anywhere in the Florida/Caribbean area, is in the Bahamas, utilizing a liveaboard diveboat. The photos you see in the Bahamas article this month, are all at sites where freediving is enjoyable. Most sites are between 30 and 60 feet deep, with several awesome sites in 10 to 20. Only the Mount Olympus dive site was really to deep to fully appreciate without a tank on ( We went down to about 220 feet, and could see the boat above us as if it were suspended in air. The liveaboard boat we used was called the Shearwater, and if you ever wanted to get everything you can out of a dive trip, this is definitely the way to go. Catering to advanced divers and spearfishermen (pole spear or Hawaiian Sling---Bahamas Law), this boat has the right approach---no rules for its divers. You stay in the water as long as you like, and you do as many dives as you can physically handle, and eat gourmet food prepared for you all day long. And you might sleep a little, since all this good living can get exhausting. Check out their web site at http://www.gate.net/~gccscuba/