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Freediving: Everything You Need to Know

freediving

Freediving is one of the most exciting underwater sports. This form of diving is all about creating a direct connection with the ocean - no breathing apparatus is required. It’s about stripping diving down to its absolute basics and focusing on the capabilities and limits of your body.

Freediving requires divers to be in a prime physical and mental state. Divers focus on controlling their breath while reaching new underwater limits. Freediving can be done competitively, or just as a rewarding way to explore the underwater world. Sound like something you’d be interested in? Follow our guide below for everything you need to know about freediving.

What is freediving?

Freediving is a form of underwater diving that doesn’t involve any type of breathing assistance. Instead of using an air tank, freedivers just hold their breath. The amount of time that you spend underwater in freediving is limited to the amount of air that you can hold in your lungs. Freedivers have to return to the surface when they’ve reached their limit, take in more air, and dive down again.  

Freediving is all about pushing yourself as far as you can go. It's a completely pure connection with the ocean, and freedivers need to be perfectly in tune with their bodies. Freediving is both a physical and mental practice.

Freediving can be done as a competitive sport, where divers try to reach new depths and set new records. It can also be done as a purely recreational activity to explore the underwater world.

freediving with snorkel

History of freediving

Freediving originates way back in ancient cultures when things like scuba tanks did not yet exist. The process was used to gather food and collect underwater resources. Sponges were gathered by freedivers in ancient Greece back in the times of Plato and Homer. Ancient freedivers in the Mediterranean would also salvage the many shipwrecks in the area.

Ancient wars, such as the Peloponnesian War and the Siege of Tyre, made use of divers to get past enemy ships or search the seabed for blockades.

Ama divers in Japan were also early freedivers. They would dive down to collect pearls - a process that started about 2000 years ago. Pearl diving was also popular in the Philippines, Caribbean, and America. This all resulted in early forms of freediving.

Eventually, freediving started to become a popular activity, where the depths divers reached were measured. In 1960, Enzo Majorca, set a world record by freediving to a depth of 45 meters.

In 1967, Bob Croft, a US Navy diving instructor, was the first person to freedive beyond 64 meters. This was believed to be the human limit for freediving. Divers continued to develop freediving as a sport, where depths started to become competitive. The current freediving world record is held by Herbert Nitsch, an Austrian freediver, who reached a depth of 214 meters. 

These days, freediving has become a popular competitive and recreational activity. Competitive freediving is always being pushed to the next level, and divers are consistently developing new ways to push their limits and reach new boundaries.

bob croft

Types of freediving

Freediving has many different recognized disciplines or types of freediving. These can either be done in open waters or in a swimming pool. The disciplines are outlined by two world associations: AIDA and CMAS. Both have their own regulations. 

Open water disciplines

Open water freediving remains the most popular area of freediving. Open water freediving is focused on depth. Here are the different open water freediving disciplines:

  • Constant Weight Apnea (CWA): This is when divers reach a maximum depth and follow a guideline. The line can only be used for a single hold to stop and start the descent. The diving technique in CWA doesn’t matter, and both monofin and bi-fins can be used. 
  • Constant Weight Apnea With Bi-fins (CWTB): This follows the same rules as CWA, except that divers cannot use a monofin, and dolphin kicks are not allowed. 
  • Constant Weight Apnea Without Fins (CNF): This discipline follows the same rules as CWT, except that no fins are allowed.
  • Free Immersion Apnea (FIM): Divers follow a vertical guideline to reach a maximum depth. Unlike CWA, divers can pull on the guideline to reach their depth and travel back up to the surface. Fins or ballast are not allowed.
  • Jump Blue (JB): This is when a maximum horizontal distance is covered, by having divers move around a 15-meter square at a depth of 10 meters. Divers can use any type of fins or no fins.
  • No-Limits Apnea (NLT): No-Limits allows any type of breath-hold diving, measured by a guideline, to reach a maximum depth. Divers can use weights to descend and inflatables to ascend. NLT divers can reach extreme depths.
  • Speed Endurance Apnea: This is measured by the shortest possible time to cover a set distance underwater.
  • Variable Wight Apnea (VWT): A depth measurement where divers can use a weight-assisted sled for their descent. They can ascend by either pulling up the line or swimming with or without fins. 

Pool disciplines

Pool freediving is either focused on horizontal distance or maximum time spent underwater. Here are the different recognized pool disciplines: 

  • Dynamic Apnea Without Fins (DNF): This covers the maximum horizontal distance traveled without using fins.
  • Dynamic Apnea With Fins (DYN): The same idea as DNF, except fins, are allowed and any swimming technique can be used. 
  • Dynamic Apnea With Bi-fins (DYNB): The same ideas as DYN, excel that only bi-fins can be used, and no dolphin kicks are allowed.
  • Static Apnea (STA): This is a timed breath-hold activity that focuses on the amount of time spent underwater. No swimming or movement is necessary.
swimming pool

Conclusion

Freediving requires immense focus and a strong understanding of your limits. It has its dangers and should be done alongside a qualified freediving instructor. 

Freediving is also incredibly rewarding. It's all about improving your breath-hold skills while being able to explore and enjoy the underwater world. It's a sport that has unlimited potential to reach new limits and discover the ocean in a new way.