Friday, November 03, 2023

Equalizing Guide For Freedivers Struggling To Equalize Between 15-40ft

3 Critical Equalizing Tips I Share And
Teach In Every Class

If you are tired of your equalizing issues limiting what you are capable of as a freediver, you have come to the right place!

We've got a lot to cover, so buckle in and don't skip anything!

Tip #1 - Equalize early and often

You probably heard this "tip" over and over. In fact, it seems so simple that most people ignore it. Before getting into this, let me ask you some questions.

Have you ever felt like there was water in your ear after a day of diving?

Have you ever felt like your hearing was muffled after a day of diving?

Have you ever felt like it gets harder to equalize after diving several days in a row?

If so, congratulations, you likely have the most common injury in diving that no one has ever heard of: Barotitis media.

Here is why this happens. When you dive underwater, the pressure pushes on your eardrum and it bends in. You feel this as pain or pressure. You use this pain or pressure as a cue to equalize, and then you clear your ears.

This process happens again as soon as you get a few more feet underwater. As a freediver, this process happens hundreds of times per day.

At some point, your body gets mad and says, hey, you are not supposed to let my eardrum bend in like that, but you keep doing it over and over again, you are really no good at this. I'm going to have to take over and fix it for you.

The body then fills your tympanic membrane, aka eardrum, with fluid, in this case, blood.


Because this makes the eardrum less bendy.

If you had barotitis media and you went to the ENT, they would see this fluid in your ear aka blood in your tympanic membrane.

In my opinion, this is the most common injury in diving. Most dive professionals don't even recognize it as an injury. I never did as a scuba instructor. I just thought it was part of the sport.

How to stop this from happening?

Equalize early and often. Equalize BEFORE you feel pain or pressure. Most divers wait until they feel the pain or pressure and use that as the cue to equalize.

Moving forward, I want you to equalize BEFORE you feel pain or pressure; this means every couple of kicks as a freediver. This will prevent you from getting that water in the ear feeling after a day of diving.

If you do manage to get Barotitis Media, to fix it, sleep with that ear facing up, so the fluid can drain out, and try gentle equalization to get the fluid moving, and you can take Advil if you wish to help reduce the swelling.

Tip #2 Keep your hand on your nose pocket

One of my biggest pet peeves is when freedivers and spearos do the "hand dance". This happens when the freediver pinches the nose and equalizes their ears, then they move that same equalizing hand and place it over their head, and then 5 seconds later they feel they need to equalize. Then they bring the hand back to equalize and once again they move the hand away!

Quit moving your equalizing hand all over the place, keep it on the nose pocket because you know you will need to equalize in a few kicks anyway!

Remember Tip #1: Equalize early and often. To do that, keep your hand on your nose pocket but only pinch your nose when you need to equalize. If you keep your nose pocket pinched the whole dive, you will never be able to equalize your mask.

Tip #3 Stay hydrated and minimize dairy

When you get dehydrated, your eustachian tubes get sticky and it's harder to equalize. Staying hydrated is a big help when it comes to equalizing.

Proper hydration starts the night before, not chugging a big bottle of water right before you jump off the boat.

Also, being hungover means you are extremely dehydrated, just understand like any athletic sport, alcohol negatively affects all aspects of your freediving performance.

When I'm diving, I try to minimize dairy 1-2 days before I go diving. It's not that I avoid it 100%, I just avoid the milkshake, and chowing down on a beautiful chunk of sharp cheddar cheese.

Here's the summary.

#1 Equalize early and often
#2 Keep your hand on your nose pocket to help with #1
#3 Stay hydrated and minimize dairy before diving.

The good news is these three tips will help most people with their equalizing issues.

The bad news is these three tips will not fix the issues if you are doing the Valsalva Method of equalization. More on this below.

Valsalva Vs Frenzel Equalization Method

Which equalization method you are using is critical for your development as a freediver.

If you are using the Valsalva method of equalization for freediving, you will always struggle to equalize head down, and struggle to equalize past 15-30ft.

This trips up a lot of scuba divers. I've had technical scuba divers that can dive to 300+ft get stuck at 15ft during the first day of my freediving class.


Because while the Valsalva method works for SCUBA diving, it's an incredibly limiting method to use as a freediver.

If you want to be able to equalize head down, instantly and effortlessly, freedivers need to use the Frenzel method of equalization.

The first thing you need to figure out is which method are you using.

How to tell if you are doing Valsalva or Frenzel

Here is how to tell if you are doing Valsalva or Frenzel:

#1 Place one hand on your stomach.
#2 Use the other hand to equalize your ears 5 times in a row, making sure you get good equalization.

If you feel your stomach moving every time you equalize, you are very likely using the Valsalva equalization method, aka the bad way.

If your stomach is motionless and you feel good equalization, then you are likely doing Frenzel equalization method, aka the good way.

If you would like to see a video of me demonstrating these tests, check out the video below.

Why is Valsalva so limiting to Freedivers?

As I said, the Valsalva method is incredibly limiting to freedivers. Most all freedivers who use Valsalva will get stuck at 15-30ft. If you take a freediving class, 20-40% of the students will get stuck at this depth and this is why.

If you want to do a deep dive on why Valsalva is so limiting and why freedivers need to use Frenzel, here is a great video on the topic.

This video below is basically a master class on the difference between Valsalva and Frenzel.

How to switch from Valsalva method to the Frenzel Equalization Method

Switching from Valsalva to Frenzel can be tricky. Here is why. If you look up how to do Frenzel, here is what you will find.

To do Frenzel, put your soft palate in a neutral position, use your tongue as a piston, and push the air into your eustachian tubes. Clear as mud, right?

I've never said the sentence to a student and had them say, "Oh, thank you Ted, that makes perfect sense, now I know how to do Frenzel."

When I first started teaching Freediving classes in 2009, about half my students would get stuck at 15ft during the ocean sessions. It was so frustrating for me and my students.

 I knew I had to get better at teaching Frenzel. After a few years, I got pretty good at teaching Frenzel.

Phase #1: Hands-on equalizing training in the classroom

I started class an hour early and would spend an hour teaching my students how to Frenzel. I can teach almost anyone how to Frenzel in this time frame. The problem was during the ocean session, I still had a lot of folks stuck at 15ft.

I was confused because they were doing Frenzel perfectly in the classroom.

That's why I realized there is a big difference between doing Frenzel sitting in a chair in my house vs doing it upside down, holding your breath in 600ft of water, while kicking like this, not like that, following the line, and keeping good head position.

The students did not have enough time to build muscle memory practicing the technique until it became automatic.

Phase #2: Believe the hype and learn to equalize on Skype.

I realized my students needed time to practice the technique before the ocean session. Around 2012, I started requiring all students to do a 1-hour Skype session with me before class started.

This was a game changer for my classes. Now my students could learn and spend time practicing the technique so they could properly Frenzel during the ocean session.

The bad news was from 2012 - 2017 I spent close to a thousand hours on Skype saying the same thing over and over again.

Phase #3: Online Frenzel Class

By 2018, I realized there must be a better way to deliver this information. I took the same step-by-step process I had developed and used for the past 5 years and turned it into an online course and required all my students to go through it before class started.

It was awesome! My students could Frenzel the first day of class and I didn't have to do anything!

This course has taught over 1,000 people to Frenzel.
It has an 89% success rate.
It has a 30-day money-back guarantee.

If you have determined you are doing Valsalva and you want to learn to do the Frenzel method of equalization, I can show you how.

Click the button below and I look forward to working with you!

Ted Harty - your trusted online freediving resource and soon to be equalization coach!

If you found this article helpful and would like to support what I do, share the below link to this article on your favorite social network 🙌🏻


Ted Harty

Ted Harty began his professional underwater career as a Scuba Instructor for PADI, NAUI, and SSI in 2005. In 2008 he took his first freediving class with Performance Freediving International.

After that course on his days off he didn’t want to go scuba diving he wanted to go freediving and realized his passion was freediving.

In 2009 Ted took PFI’s first official Instructor program and immediately started working for PFI helping Kirk Krack and Mandy Rae-Kruckshank teach courses all across the USA.

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