What Is Samba In Freediving? And Other Safety Terms You'll Hear

What Is Samba In Freediving? And Other Common Terms You'll Hear

Please understand this is our personal way to explain this term, collected from different documents and personal experiences and under no circumstances should be taken as “the only answer”. Same way this is entirely user responsible guide, meaning that nor OceanSense Freediving, its instructors or representatives could take responsibility for any injuries caused as a consequence from reading this article.

What is Samba in freediving? What about LMC and Shallow Water Blackout?  


If you’re just getting into freediving or spearfishing, you’re likely to hear a lot of terms that are unfamiliar to you. This can be intimidating and confusing, but don’t worry! We’re here to help. In this article, we will explain some of these common freediving terms and how they relate to your safety in the water.

So you have all the gear and are ready to start your spearfishing or freediving journey – after all, spearfishing is just freediving with a speargun! You’ve been watching videos on how to hold your breath longer and stay under water longer. But you also need to be aware of some risks involved so you can stay safe while freediving.

First, let’s understand what happens to our body when we breathe and when we hold our breath:

The Breathing Cycle

When you breathe in, fresh air comes into your lungs. The oxygen in the air goes into your bloodstream. The blood with the oxygen goes back to your heart and from there it is pumped to all of the tissues in your body. The tissues use the oxygen and turn it into carbon dioxide. That carbon dioxide is put back into the blood. The blood with the carbon dioxide goes back to your heart and then back to your lungs. Your lungs take out the carbon dioxide and then you breathe out, and the whole process starts again.

Holding Your Breath

When you hold your breath, you interrupt the breathing cycle and the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood change. This is because you are not getting fresh oxygen in, and the carbon dioxide can’t escape. When you hold your breath, the carbon dioxide levels in your body increase and the oxygen levels decrease.

Urge To Breathe

The high levels of carbon dioxide in your body is called hypercapnia. This is what triggers your urge to breathe after you have been holding your breath for some time. 


Low carbon dioxide levels make you want to breathe which is uncomfortable, but low levels of oxygen can have more serious effects on your body. This is because oxygen is important for us to stay alive. When there is not enough oxygen, it is called hypoxia. When the body is hypoxic for too long you are at risk of a black out. 

Black Outs

Why do we blackout? Think about it this way: when you breathe, do you have to think about doing it? No, your subconscious takes care of that for you. But when we hold our breath, we have to consciously decide to stop breathing.

We black out because our brains protect us. When you hold your breath for too long, your brain will notice that there is not enough oxygen in your blood. To protect us, our brain puts us to sleep. Our subconscious takes over and breathes for us again. We then wake up with a deep breath of air.

If you are in the water, your brain knows that and will stop you from taking a breath until you are back in the air. That is why it is so important to always remove the snorkel from your mouth before diving and never dive alone.

If you want to understand what to do if this happens to your buddy, we strongly recommend you take a freediving course with a qualified instructor. And if you are in Queensland, Australia, take a course with us – we have locations all along the coast!

What is Samba in Freediving?

Samba, named after the traditional Brazilian dance, is a common term used to describe the condition of Loss of Motor Control or LMC. Samba occurs when you become hypoxic and causes you to lose control of your movements. Most of the time, you shake uncontrollably. 

This can happen before a blackout, but not always. So it’s important not to wait for this as a warning sign of a black out. 

What is Shallow Water Black Out?

When someone blacks out, it is because of a lack of oxygen. This can be explained by partial pressure, but we’re not going to get too deep into that topic here, but in simple terms – When you go underwater, the pressure increases. This pressure increases the concentration of oxygen in your lungs signalling to your brain that you have plenty of oxygen. When you come back up, the pressure decreases and the oxygen concentration decreases. Your brain suddenly realises you actually don’t have enough oxygen, and black out can happen.

To make things easy, just remember that blackouts happen when there isn’t enough oxygen. It’s not necessarily to do with shallow water, a black out can happen at any depth.

If you want to improve your skill or increase your time underwater in a safe way, click here to read our article with 5 TIPS FOR IMPROVING YOUR BREATHHOLD.

And that’s it for today! We hope this has helped you understand some of the common terms used in freediving and spearfishing. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. And don’t forget to check out our courses if you’re interested in learning more about freediving!

Freediving Instructor Gonzalo


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