Sebastian Naslund
Igor Liberti

The quest for the perfect noseclip

- equipment development in performance freediving

© Sebastian Naslund

Not long ago (some of us actually remembers it) you grabbed your plastic bifins, put on your nylon wetsuit, weighted yourself with a stiff nylon belt and 3 pound led weights, took your spaceship size mask and headed for the sea. Some even brought a snorkel down in their hopes for personal bests in depth. And they kicked all the way down to where valsalva or frenzel failed you, and then kicked themselves up.

These where the days when Umperto Pelizzari was the champion in freediving and AIDA actually forbid anything but a normal mask. I those days there were no safety lanyards. No one had ever thought of the silly idea of putting a leash on a freediver.

Where did the stereofins go?

The last one doing a world record in depth with bi fins was Brett Le Master beating Umbertos 80 meter with an 81 meter dive. At Ibiza World Championship I remember seeing the first monofins being used. Monofins built for speedswimming in the pool. It caused great interest, and looked very strange. Umberto who put together the 2002 WC with the help of Club med, thought the monofin movement looked a bit "unmasculin" and did not fail to mention this. Herbert Nitsch set the first monofin world record with a competition dive to 86 meters - we were all in awe (well Martin Stepanek wasn´t, he knew he didn´t even need a monofin to go to those depths). Photos and stories.

In the Hawaii WC 2003 we saw some Japaneese turning up with monofins finishing their dives with great speeds. photos and stories A discussion started regarding speed, time and energy expense. Maybe one third of the divers used monfins around this time. And we all know how it ended. Everybody have them now. There are no more bifins in performance freediving. The advantage of being able to use more musclegroups and use the dolphinkick with a greater finsurface is much too great.

The manufacturers

Finswimworld/waterways in Ukraina making finswim monofins started getting orders from freedivers. Yellowish straight blades with a with a narrow blue strap around the heel.

In one of the Baltic countries Sebakfins split into leaderfins and specialfins. Angles started to appear on the blades. The russians turned up with custombuilt more hydrodynamic things with fat footpockets. Getting one of them made was nearly impossible (the russians kept the adress to the man building them to themselves, and anyway if you had a bad kick style he was not interested in making you one anyhow). Now Waterways makes similar. And they still cost an arm or a leg. And maybe that is why the CNF breaststroke discipline is becoming increasingly popular. You just need your arms and your legs - and one little piece of equipment - a noseclip.

In those days after the millenium everybody was long since aware of different blade materials. The spearfishers had produced some interesting bi fins. Alreay going from rubber to plastic was a great improvement. Now we began to see more and more complex materials, like glasfiber and carbon. Stronger more flexible material that could make thinner fins.

By the way, in Ibiza we also saw an unknown diver voluntarily use a lanyard. Someone that had the good sense of not trusting the scuba safeties which was more or less the main safety feature (apart from freedvers).

Turn the volume down

At Ibiza everyone that hadn´t already got a Sphera mask was desperately looking for one. The advantage of low volume was known since ages. The mask needs air to be equalized or you soon have your eyeballs in the mask. Sphera was/is actually a low tech mask for surface swimming with plastic bent lenses. Some other mask could rival in small volume (bandit), but not in compressibility. I have taken a Sphera from 0-20 meters without equalizing it.

Now since a few years back many top level athletes are switching to "no mask" ro get that cutting edge and save all the air for equalization.

In pursuit of the second skin

The first wetsuits produced for scubadivers more than half a century ago was actually open cell on both sides. One did not yet have the skill to add protective nylon on the outside (inside). Nylons have been loved by scubas for many decades now, but as freediving became more focused on details and surface hydrodynamics became an issue freedivers started looking for other solutions. Triathlon swimmers and the like had already forced smoothskin solutions onto the market. Freedivers bought it.

(On a personal note: I did a 40 meter CNF 2002 with a 5 mm nylon suit and 5 kilos led, probably the greatest dive of my life, wouldn´t even attempt it today).

A brand like Eliossub in Italy was soon making lots of custom made smoothskin suits. Their inventiveness with outside and inside materials soon left freedivers totally confused. Among others Martin Stepanek turned up at Ibiza with a sexy looking open cell/smoothskin suit that needed immense care when putting it on. On second of distraction and (rip) you could be showing the world most part of your behinds.

The author doing 65 meter CNF in Bahamas WC 2009

In the pool we began to see swimsuits in the Maribor 2007 WC. Not only the most hydrodynamic surface but tight enough to keep muscles and flesh from vibrating and causing sucking turbulence. In Depth WC 2009 in Bahamas I borrowed William Trubridges rubber Orca skin. No buoyancy and no warming effect but it took care of the surface hydrodynamics which is about 12% of the hydrodynamics problem (the rest is form drag).

Led is evil

The more industrious freedivers started turning up with home built ledweights. Smaller and more flat. Elastic belts was already common among spearfishers that did not want their belts slide up to their armpits.Freedivers soon tossed their nylonbelts (we saw many of those in Ibiza 2002).

The pool also gave birth to the neckweight. Most freedivers in the Laussane 2005 pool WC swam with feet and hips floating up. Creating huge form drag. Putting more weight on your hips was not the solution since the problems whas at the front part of "the vessel" - the buoyant lungs full of air. Most of Tom Sietas world records was among other things based on full understanding of how to weight himself.

The neckweight followed into the depth disciplines where it lessened form drag and improved freefalling (have you noticed how your legs always want to "fall over" and overtake you).

In those days around 2002-2005 there was lots of talk about new techniques like packing, mouthfill ( and the mysterious handsfree) and freefalling. No body talked about squeeze and everybody feared the black out as a "should I go to hospital" kind of incident. But that is another story.

The #1 factor

Then the two most important steps in competitive freediving took place. It started with the understanding that the diverope was actually quite important and useful (I set my first PB´s in free water back in 1999 - crazy!). Since it is a good idea to be able to pull yourself up in emergency, new sturdy buoys where developed - using car tubes. But the real leap in safety came with the lanyard.

The Nordic Deep (longest running depth competition in the world) demanded it before it was in the Aida rules. And above all, what has been and will be the key to getting acceptance to our sport is the antiballast system. A weight that can be dropped that brings up the diveline, bottomplate and freediver and all. Nordic Deep used it already 2003. Now fredivers were ready to really push it, with safety in place.
And this new safety, together with new equipment, and new techniques like mouthfill and packing - allowed relative beginners to go really deep early in their career leading to lots of squeeze - but that as well is another story.

The end of the Sphera
Swimming without a mask seemed very silly, or at least strange and scary. The objection was that you will not be able to see. Canadian world champion and creative mind Eric Fattah was more or less furious at the conservative AIDA regulations inhibiting the invention of new equipment. He wanted to swim with water filled swim googles with apnea lenses. This would enable him not only to save more than a litre of air on his dives, but to as well see underwater. Pure science fiction in those days. Aida eventually voted about it and slightly more than half the members took an accepting stance.
Soon AIDA faced other challenges. Like Herbert Nitsch equalization bottle, or the Static version of it . Soon Aida will have to take a stance on the high tech swimsuits that are forbidden in swimming, and maybe even the Lunocet monofin taking its force from higher up the leg and more mimicking the dolphin tail in its shape (prototypes has not yet been liked by freedivers).

How deep

Regarding depth measurement some where swimming with analogue meters some decade ago, the rich would have the huge Mares Apneist box on their arm. Soon everybody was racing to buy the Suunto D3, specialized for freediving. Sort of cheap but often malfunctioning (but you got a replacement if you complained). Eric Fattah understood the the future was in computers and that there is actually no reason to limit the functions when datachips are getting smaller and smaller. The F1 project caused great interest. Price was high and prototypes malfunctioned. Fattah gave up on the tight fisted freediving market and makes his F1 mainly for the Scuba people.

Mares challenged Suunto with the heavy stainless steel Mares apneist (less plastic and very masculine). It had the same features and was more reliable, but was never a big seller. Suunto started facing out the D3 in 2008 after suggesting freedivers to buy the more expensive D4. (Myself being an extreme and fetishistic freediver I would never don something that actually has scuba functions). Now there is talk about a new freediver gauge from Suunto, but Aeris beat them to it with the F10 that costs as much as a D3 (less considering inflation) and has more functions.

Dive pure

So now that leaves us with only one piece of equipment to be discussed. The noseclip and the presentation of the final solution. Not only do you save air with a noseclip (the air that would have been spent on the mask), you expose your face to water and chill, and thus enhancing oxygen saving dive response. AND your hands are free to use in the ever increasing popular CNF (no fins discipline). Now there is even a category allowing only noseclip, no suit, no other equipment. UFC ultimate freediving competition or unassisted. As pure as, or purer, than the Skandalopetra (hold on to a stone and follow it down).

Who was the first to swim deep without mask? I have not been able to find out, but Natalja Molchaniova was early. And before that saw the futurist Sebastien Murat go to extreme depths with face exposed. Problem is that if you swim head down your sinuses will fill up (Sebastien as Pipin as Musimu uses sinusfilling at depth as a equalization method). It is extremely painful for the beginner (yes it is). The noseclip solves the problem if you are not into wet equalization.


The noseclip brand to look for has always been french Paradisia. And yes, you have too look. No one really knows where to buy this french make. In Ibiza the guy was hiding on a parking lot in the dark selling this like it was illegal. The price was also high 30 euros back then. Performance freediving team got fed up looking for Paradisias and started manufacturing their own. They put a little design into it and made a curve at the base of "the nose" making it come closer. Freedive Trainers International (Martin Stepanek leaving the cooperation with PFT and Kirk Krack) soon had their own version. a little bit sturdier which might be good, since I have seen the PFT one break.

In my opinion the Paradisia still reigns.... until now. In my hand I have a prototype fresh from the factory of Trygons (Greek speargun manufacturer). The owner of Trygons, Alex, has the bad habit of hanging around Herbert, and thus might have been exposed to some nosclip complains. So Alex went to his workshop and out of first class aluminium (normally used for airplanes) he produced a futuristic looking piece. It sure will not break. It is barely heavier than its rivals. It is smaller in its pressing points, and yet covers the essential surface. It has no fixed points, its stops exactly where you want it to stop with the exact pressure. The outsticking part can be angled downwards.. The contact surface is not too soft and yet not too rough (I have had sandpaper glued on the insides of my Paradisia, this is not needed with the Trygons).

Some will hate it, others will never want to take it of. And there will be a discussion on how to ware it, some will happily wear it upside down in the this world of genetic nose diversity.

The future looks bright for Performance Freediving

© Sebastian Naslund