Category Archives: Books

Deep – James Nestor – A great book about Freediving and other ocean stuff


I am partial to a freediving book, as I am partial to endless YouTube videos of people going up and down in endless blue and doing weird underwater stunts, to an extent which my wife doesn’t understand, so when the book ‘the Deep’ by journalist James Nestor came out I was at the front of the queue.

Firstly he deals with freediving as an outsider, a journo sent to cover a competition in Greece. There he sees what in a way is the seedier side of freediving, people pushing themselves to their limits. Blackouts and evacuations to hospital have the potential to give a bad reputation to what is statistically quite a safe sport, but through the people he meets there he is soon drawn into a wondrous world where competition is only a small part of why people feel driven to dive into a place where, for a minute or two at a time, they can forget they are human and be part of something different.

He goes on to learn from the experts, which includes not only how to dive, but how freedivers interact with the ocean environment and what some of them are achieving in research and conservation. Some of this isn’t necessarily conducted in a strict academic environment, he visits projects that are conducted and/or financed by informed but unqualified individuals rather than academic institutions. This is why he makes reference in the subtitle to ‘renegade science’ but in a way this makes it all the more interesting as individuals pursue interests that might be a little too off piste or dangerous for academics to risk their reputations, or even their lives; think diving unprotected with sharks or sperm whales. Whatever your views on this I am envious of the year he spent chasing down material for this book, and the things he learn’t along the way.

Well worth a read.

Book – Underwater foraging – Freediving for food: An instructional guide to freediving, sustainable marine foraging and spearfishing

This was the second freediving book I bought. The first being ‘Manual of Freediving’ which I gather is the bible for most freedivers and a must read.

This book, ‘Underwater foraging – Freediving for food: An instructional guide to freediving, sustainable marine foraging and spearfishing’, is pretty much geared towards me, it deals with enough of the basics of safe freediving and spearfishing to set someone like me on the right track, and it is a guide for UK waters. The fact that it deals in detail with UK species of marine life makes it slightly specialised and not necessarily the best book for people elsewhere in the world. This only applies to part of the book however, obviously all the instruction on diving, kit, breath holding, weighting etc. is universal.

The real strength of this book, and this is something I have already noticed myself, is that it merges the sometimes disparate worlds of spearfishing and safe diving practice. I live by the sea and even as someone who is quite new to this, I have spoken to spearfishing people who advocate hyperventilation, massively overweight themselves, and who haven’t really been properly educated. Even if you aren’t gearing yourself to spearfishing, as a freediver you will want to know more about what lives under the waves, and will almost undoubtedly take some food back with you, even if it isn’t speared, so this is the book to get you going in the right direction.

The book is written by Ian Donald, of FreediveUK, and it is Ian who has taught me a lot of what I know so I must admit a small bias towards his book. But this isn’t just about supporting him, (I paid for it on Amazon and he didn’t ask me to review it), it is more about buying in to his particular ethos, safe freediving for enjoyment, food, and for a greater understanding of what goes on in the sea.