Freediving Equalization Techniques – Why the Frenzel Technique is so Important
Equalizing is one of the most important skills that you need to develop as a freediver. Proper equalization is what allows you to dive deeper into the depths and enjoy the water at its full potential. If you fail to develop this skill you will find yourself frequently stuck near the surface. We will be going over some of the very basic techniques of equalizing and how they impact your ability to dive deeper.
Why Equalizing is Important
The reason you need to equalize is to get the air spaces in your head to reach equilibrium with the environment. If you do not equalize as you descend underwater the increased pressure around your body will cause discomfort at a minimum. If you push past the discomfort and can cause injuries, some of which can become permanent. A ruptured eardrum is one of the most common injuries from not equalizing, and if the injury is bad enough it can keep you out of the water for months, if to indefinitely.
The Two Equalization Techniques
Broadly speaking there are two types of equalizing techniques. There is the Valsalva technique, which is commonly taught in scuba diving courses, and there is the Frenzel Technique which is taught in freediving courses. Both techniques have some overlap in how they are done. Both techniques rely on blocking the nose and applying pressure to force air into air spaces in your head. The mechanical steps get different from there. Proper diet also impacts your ability to equalize.
Valsalva is a very old breathing technique frequently taught in scuba diving courses. It is an effective way to equalize in shallow water and while you head is higher than the rest of your body under water. This article by Divers Alert Network (DAN) goes over some of the basics of Valsalva, including the drawbacks. The technique has some major issue while being inverted in the water, which is why most Freedivers learn the Frenzel Technique.
The Frenzel method is the modern standard for Freediving equalization. The premise is to use your tongue as a piston to force air into your gustation tubes. This in turn equalizes the pressure of the air spaces in your head. That is a very direct description that does not especially help you learn how to complete this task. Here is a video by Adam Stern demonstrating how to do a proper Frenzel equalization. Here is another great article going over the history, principles, and technique of using the Frenzel while freediving.