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Freediver with monofin, ascending

Freediving, free-diving, free diving, breath-hold diving, or skin diving is a form of underwater diving that relies on divers' ability to hold their breath until resurfacing rather than on the use of a breathing apparatus such as scuba gear.

Besides the limits of breath-hold, immersion in water and exposure to high ambient pressure also have physiological effects that limit the depths and duration possible in freediving.

Examples of freediving activities are: traditional fishing techniques, competitive and non-competitive freediving, competitive and non-competitive spearfishing and freediving photography, synchronized swimming, underwater football, underwater rugby, underwater hockey, underwater target shooting and snorkeling. There are also a range of "competitive apnea" disciplines; in which competitors attempt to attain great depths, times, or distances on a single breath.

Historically, the term free diving was also used to refer to scuba diving, due to the freedom of movement compared with surface supplied diving.[1][2][3]


Natural sponges have been harvested by freedivers near the Greek island of Kalymnos since at least the time of Plato.

In ancient times freediving without the aid of mechanical devices was the only possibility, with the exception of the occasional use of reeds and leather breathing bladders.[4] The divers faced the same problems as divers today, such as decompression sickness and blacking out during a breath hold. Freediving was practiced in ancient cultures to gather food, harvest resources such as sponge and pearl, reclaim sunken valuables, and to help aid military campaigns.[citation needed]

In Ancient Greece, both Plato and Homer mention the sponge as being used for bathing. The island of Kalymnos was a main centre of diving for sponges. By using weights (skandalopetra) of as much as 15 kilograms (33 lb) to speed the descent, breath-holding divers would descend to depths up to 30 metres (98 ft) to collect sponges.[5] Harvesting of red coral was also done by divers.[citation needed]

The Mediterranean had large amounts of maritime trade. As a result of shipwrecks, particularly in the fierce winter storms, divers were often hired to salvage whatever they could from the seabed.[6] Divers would swim down to the wreck and choose the most valuable pieces to salvage.

Divers were also used in warfare. Defenses against sea vessels were often created, such as underwater barricades, and hence divers were often used to scout out the seabed when ships were approaching an enemy harbor. If barricades were found, it was divers who were used to disassemble them, if possible.[7] During the Peloponnesian War, divers were used to get past enemy blockades to relay messages as well as supplies to allies or troops that were cut off,[8] and in 332 BC, during Siege of Tyre, the city used divers to cut the anchor cables of Alexander's attacking ships.[citation needed]

In Japan, ama divers began to collect pearls about 2,000 years ago.[9][10] For thousands of years, most seawater pearls were retrieved by divers working in the Indian Ocean, in areas such as the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and in the Gulf of Mannar (between Sri Lanka and India).[11] A fragment of Isidore of Charax's Parthian itinerary was preserved in Athenaeus's 3rd-century Sophists at Dinner, recording freediving for pearls around an island in the Persian Gulf.[12]

Pearl divers near the Philippines were also successful at harvesting large pearls, especially in the Sulu Archipelago. At times, the largest pearls belonged by law to the sultan, and selling them could result in the death penalty for the seller. Nonetheless, many pearls made it out of the archipelago by stealth, ending up in the possession of the wealthiest families in Europe.[13] Pearling was popular in Qatar, Bahrain, Japan, and India. The Gulf of Mexico was also known for pearling. Native Americans harvested freshwater pearls from lakes and rivers like the Ohio, Tennessee, and Mississippi, while others dived for marine pearls from the Caribbean and waters along the coasts of Central and South America.

Freediving activities

Recreational hunting and gathering


Spearfishing is an ancient method of fishing that has been used throughout the world for millennia. Early civilizations were familiar with the custom of spearing fish from rivers and streams using sharpened sticks.

Today modern spearfishing makes use of elastic powered spearguns and slings, or compressed gas pneumatic powered spearguns, to strike the hunted fish. Specialised techniques and equipment have been developed for various types of aquatic environments and target fish. Spearfishing may be done using free-diving, snorkelling, or scuba diving techniques. Spearfishing while using scuba equipment is illegal in some countries. The use of mechanically powered spearguns is also outlawed in some countries and jurisdictions.[citation needed] Spearfishing is highly selective, normally uses no bait and has no by-catch.

Collection of shellfish

Competitive breath-hold watersports


Aquathlon (also known as underwater wrestling) is an underwater sport where two competitors wearing masks and fins wrestle underwater in an attempt to remove a ribbon from each other's ankle band in order to win the bout. The "combat" takes place in a 5-metre (16 ft) square ring within a swimming pool, and is made up of three 30-second rounds, with a fourth round played in the event of a tie. The sport originated during the 1980s in the former USSR (now Russia) and was first played at international level in 1993. It was recognised by the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (CMAS) in 2008.[14][15][16][17]

Competitive spearfishing

Competitive spearfishing is defined by the world governing body CMAS as "the hunting and capture of fish underwater without the aid of artificial breathing devices, using gear that depends entirely on the physical strength of the competitor." They publish a set of competition rules that are used by affiliated organisations.[18][19]

Synchronised swimming

A member of the Japanese team is thrown up in the air by other members under the water during the team's free routine at the 2013 French Open.

Synchronized swimming is a hybrid form of swimming, dance, and gymnastics, consisting of swimmers (either solos, duets, trios, combos, or teams) performing a synchronised routine of elaborate moves in the water, accompanied by music. Synchronised swimming demands advanced water skills, and requires great strength, endurance, flexibility, grace, artistry and precise timing, as well as exceptional breath control when upside down underwater. During lifts swimmers are not allowed to touch the bottom.[citation needed]

Traditionally it was a women's sport, but following the addition of a new mixed-pair event, FINA World Aquatics competitions are open to men since the 16th 2015 championships in Kazan, and the other international and national competitions allow male competitors in every event. However, men are currently still barred from competing in the Olympics. Both USA Synchro and Synchro Canada allow men to compete with women. Most European countries also allow men to compete, and France even allows male only podiums, according to the number of participants. In the past decade more men are becoming involved in the sport and a global biannual competition called Men's Cup has been steadily growing.[citation needed]

Swimmers perform two routines for the judges, one technical and one free, as well as age group routines and figures. Synchronised swimming is both an individual and team sport. Swimmers compete individually during figures, and then as a team during the routine. Figures are made up of a combination of skills and positions that often require control, strength, and flexibility. Swimmers are ranked individually for this part of the competition. The routine involves teamwork and synchronization. It is choreographed to music and often has a theme. Synchronised swimming is governed internationally by FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation).

Underwater hockey

Two players compete for the puck in underwater hockey

Underwater Hockey, (also called Octopush (mainly in the United Kingdom)) is a globally played limited-contact sport in which two teams compete to manoeuvre a puck across the bottom of a swimming pool into the opposing team's goal by propelling it with a pusher. It originated in England in 1954 when Alan Blake, the founder of the newly formed Southsea Sub-Aqua Club, invented the game he called Octopush as a means of keeping the club's members interested and active over the cold winter months when open-water diving lost its appeal.[20] Underwater Hockey is now played worldwide, with the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques, abbreviated CMAS, as the world governing body.[21] The first Underwater Hockey World Championship was held in Canada in 1980 after a false start in 1979 brought about by international politics and apartheid.[citation needed]

Underwater football

US Navy Students playing underwater football

Underwater football is a two-team underwater sport that shares common elements with underwater hockey and underwater rugby. As with both of those games, it is played in a swimming pool with snorkeling equipment (mask, snorkel, and fins). The goal of the game is to manoeuvre (by carrying and passing) a slightly negatively buoyant ball from one side of a pool to the other by players who are completely submerged underwater. Scoring is achieved by placing the ball (under control) in the gutter on the side of the pool. Variations include using a toy rubber torpedo as the ball, and weighing down buckets to rest on the bottom and serve as goals.[citation needed]

It is played in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan.[22]

Underwater rugby

Underwater rugby is an underwater team sport. During a match two teams try to score a negatively buoyant ball (filled with saltwater) into the opponents’ goal at the bottom of a swimming pool. It originated from within the physical fitness training regime existing in German diving clubs during the early 1960s and has little in common with rugby football except for the name. It was recognised by the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (CMAS) in 1978 and was first played as a world championship in 1980.[citation needed]

Underwater target shooting

Underwater target shooting is an underwater sport that tests a competitors’ ability to accurately use a speargun via a set of individual and team events conducted in a swimming pool using free diving or Apnea technique. The sport was developed in France during the early 1980s and is currently practised mainly in Europe. It is known as Tir sur cible subaquatique in French and as Tiro al Blanco Subacuático in Spanish.

Competitive apnea

Monofin freediver

Competitive freediving is currently governed by two world associations: AIDA International (International Association for Development of Apnea)[23] and CMAS (Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques – World Underwater Federation). Historically, there was a third organisation - IAFD (International Association of Freedivers).[citation needed] Each organization has its own rules on recognizing a record attempt which can be found on the organization's website.

Most types of competitive freediving have in common that it is an individual sport based on the best individual achievement. Exceptions to this rule are the bi-annual World Championship for Teams, held by AIDA, where the combined score of the team members makes up the team's total points, Skandalopetra diving competitions held by CMAS.[clarification needed]


There are currently eleven recognized disciplines defined by AIDA and CMAS, and a dozen more that are only practiced locally.[clarification needed][citation needed] All disciplines can be practiced by both men and women and, while done outdoors, no differences in the environment between records are currently recognized. The disciplines of AIDA can be done both in competition and as a record attempt, with the exception of Variable Weight and No limits, which are both solely for record attempts. For all AIDA depth disciplines, the depth the athlete will attempt is announced before the dive; this is accepted practice for both competition and record attempts.

discipline measure­ment AIDA[24] CMAS[25] description
open water pool open water pool
Speed-Endurance Apnoea min. time Red XN Green tickY Speed-Endurance apnoea is an event where the athlete aims at covering a fixed distance at the minimum possible time. Endurance subdiscipline is swum in fractions of a pool length alternating apnoea swimming with passive recovery at the pool's ends. Disciplines are 100m speed apnoea and 800m endurance apnoea (16x50m).
STAStatic apnea max. time Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY STA is timed breath holding and is usually attempted in a pool.
STA O2Static apnea with pure oxygen max. time Red XN Red XN STA O2 is timed breath holding where its possible to pre-breathe 100% oxygen for up to 30 minutes prior to the breathhold and is usually attempted in a pool. While nowadays is not official by AIDA or CMAS there were three instances when records were approved by AIDA.
DYNDynamic apnea with fins horizontal distance Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY For DYN the athlete can choose whether to use bi-fins or the monofin.
DNFDynamic apnea without fins horizontal distance Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY This is underwater swimming in a pool for distance without any swimming aids like fins (AIDA).
JBJump blue horizontal distance Red XN Green tickY The jump blue (also called "the cube") is a discipline in which an athlete has to descend and swim as far as possible in around a square of 15 meters side situated in a depth of 10 meters.
CWTConstant weight apnea depth Green tickY Green tickY The athlete has to dive to the depth following a guide line that he or she is not allowed to actively use during the dive; only a single hold of the rope to stop the descent and start the ascent is allowed. The ‘Constant Weight’ (French: "poids constant") refers to the fact that the athlete is not allowed to drop any diving weights during the dive. Both bi-fins and monofin can be used during this discipline.
CNFConstant weight apnea without fins depth Green tickY Green tickY CNF follows the identical rules as Constant Weight, except no swimming aids such as fins are allowed. This discipline is the youngest discipline within competitive freediving and is recognised by AIDA since 2003.
FIMFree immersion apnea depth Green tickY Green tickY FIM is a discipline in which the athlete uses the vertical guiderope to pull him or herself down to depth and back to the surface without using ballast or fins. It is known for its ease compared with the Constant Weight disciplines, while the athlete is still not allowed to release weights.
VWTVariable weight apnea depth Green tickY Green tickY VWT is a record discipline that uses a weighted sled for descent. Athletes return to the surface:
1.) by pulling themselves up along a line or swimming with or without fins under AIDA rules
2.) swimming with fins under CMAS rules.
VNFVariable weight apnea without fins depth Red XN Green tickY VNF is a record discipline that uses a weighted sled for descent. Athletes return to the surface by pulling themselves up along a line or swimming without fins.
NLTNo-limits apnea depth Green tickY Red XN NLT is a record discipline that allows the athlete to use any means of breath-hold diving to depth and return to the surface as long as a guideline is used to measure the distance. Most divers use a weighted sled to dive down and use an inflatable bag to return to the surface.
Skandalopetra depth & min. time Red XN Green tickY The athlete dives with the help of a stone (usually a marble slab) attached to a rope. Skandalopetra is a team event: one athlete dives and one is waiting at the surface. When the first athlete reaches the desired depth, the second starts hauling him up.
Herbert Nitsch, World Record Holder Freediver
Overview of major differences between depth disciplines

[26] [27]
BF - BiFins, MF - MonoFin

discipline dive (result enhancing) specific equipment change of
descend ascend
JB weighted sled or
fins (BF or MF)
fins (BF or MF) NO
(except weighted sled)
CNF without aids without aids NO
CWT fins (BF or MF) fins (BF or MF) NO
FIM pulling on the rope pulling on the rope NO
VNF weighted sled pulling on the rope or
without aids
VWT weighted sled fins (BF or MF) YES
SP stone pulled up by the rope YES
NLT method of choice
(usually weighted sled)
method of choice
(usually inflatable lifting bags)

World records

Note 1: There are two types of fin: monofin and bifins. Disciplines where using a fin (type of fin not in the name of the discipline) is obligatory or optional most divers, if not all, choose monofin over bifin due to its superiority.
Note 2: Best official result in STA is Guinness WR of 11:54 by Branko Petrović in 2014, a freediver who has results in STA over 10 minutes under both AIDA and CMAS.
Note 3: Best NLT result is 253.2m by Herbert Nitsch in 2012; intention of having the dive sanctioned by AIDA fell through due to a sponsoring conflict.
Note 4: After 2001-12-31 AIDA International no longer separated the records achieved in a lake from those in the sea.

AIDA recognized world records

As of 28 September 2017, the AIDA recognized world records are:[28]

Discipline Gender Depth [m] Distance [m] Time Name Date Place
Static apnea (STA) Men 11 min 35 sec  Stéphane Mifsud (FRA) 2009-06-08 Hyères, Var, France
Women 9 min 02 sec  Natalia Molchanova (RUS) 2013-06-29 Belgrade, Serbia
Dynamic apnea with fins (DYN) Men 300  Mateusz Malina (POL) &
 Giorgos Panagiotakis (GRE)
2016-07-03 Turku, Finland
Women 237  Natalia Molchanova (RUS) 2014-09-26 Sardinia, Italy
Dynamic apnea without fins (DNF) Men 244  Mateusz Malina (POL) 2016-07-02 Turku, Finland
Women 191  Magdalena Solich (POL) 2017-07-01 Opole, Poland
Constant weight apnea (CWT) Men 129  Alexey Molchanov (RUS) 2016-10-28 Isla Espíritu Santo, Mexico
Women 104  Alessia Zecchini (ITA) 2017-05-10 Dean's Blue Hole, Long Island Bahamas
Constant weight apnea without fins (CNF) Men 102  William Trubridge (NZL) 2016-07-20 Dean's Blue Hole, Long Island Bahamas
Women 72  Sayuri Kinoshita (JPN) 2016-04-26 Dean's Blue Hole, Long Island Bahamas
Free immersion apnea (FIM) Men 124  William Trubridge (NZL) 2016-05-02 Dean's Blue Hole, Long Island Bahamas
Women 92  Jeanine Grasmeijer (NED) 2016-09-06 Kralendijk, Bonaire
Variable weight apnea (VWT) Men 146  Stavros Kastrinakis (GRE) 2015-11-01 Kalamata, Greece
Women 130  Nanja van den Broek (NED) 2015-10-18 Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
No-limits apnea (NLT) Men 214  Herbert Nitsch (AUT) 2007-06-14 Spetses, Greece
Women 160  Tanya Streeter (USA) 2002-08-17 Turks and Caicos
Discipline Gender Points Team / Individual Date Place
AIDA team Men 840.6  CRO
Goran Čolak, Božidar Petani, Veljano Zanki
2012-09-16 Nice, France [29][30]
Men 313.3  William Trubridge (NZL) 2010-07-06 Okinawa, Japan [31][32]

CMAS recognized world records

As of 22 October 2017, the CMAS recognized world records are:[33]

Discipline Gender Depth
Time Name/Country Date Place
SPESpeed 100 m apnea with fins (50 m pool) Men 00:31.710  Stefano Konjedic (ITA)
Women 00:35.860  Vera Yarovitskaya (RUS)
END 16x50Endurance 800 m apnea with fins (50 m pool) Men 09:34.270  Max Poschart (GER)
Women 11:20.290  Martina Mongiardino (ITA)
END 8x50Endurance 400 m apnea with fins (50 m pool) Men
Women 4:55.390  Martina Mongiardino (ITA) 2017-04-20 Novara, Italy
STA Static apnea Men 10:39.000  Branko Petrović (SRB) 2015-07-30 Mulhouse, France
Women 08:53.150  Veronika Dittes (AUT)
Dynamic apnea with fins (under ice) Men 175  Arthur Guérin-Boëri (FRA) 2017-03-11 Finland
Women 125  Valentina Cafolla (CRO) 2017-03-12 Lago Di Anterselva Lake[34]
(open water) Men 200  Sertan Aydin (TUR)
DYN (50 m pool) Men 300.00  Arthur Guérin-Boëri (FRA) 2016-06-11 Lignano, Italy
Women 250.00  Alessia Zecchini (ITA) 2016-06-11 Lignano, Italy
DYN BFDynamic apnea with bifins (50 m pool) Men 246.35  Andrea Vitturini (ITA)
Women 204.20  Alessia Zecchini (ITA) 2016-06- Lignano, Italy
DNF Dynamic apnea without fins (50 m pool) Men 205.97  Goran Čolak (CRO)
Women 171.22  Alessia Zecchini (ITA) 2016-06-08 Lignano, Italy
(25 m pool) Men 200  Arthur Guérin-Boëri (FRA) 2013-08-09 Kazan, Russia
Women 175  Katarina Zubčić (HRV) 2013-11-15 Zagreb, Croatia
Jump blue apnea with fins (at sea) Men 201.61  Arthur Guérin-Boëri (FRA) 2015-10-09 Ischia, Italy
Women 190.48  Alessia Zecchini (ITA) 2015-10-09 Ischia, Italy
(fresh water) Men 170  Alfredo Leonidas Rosado Estrada (ECU)
Women 132.92  Gilda Rivadeneria Montalvo (ECU)
CWT Constant weight with fins (at sea) Men 122  Alexey Molchanov (RUS)
Women 95  Alenka Artnik (SLO)
(fresh water) Men 80  Michele Tomasi (ITA)
Women 57  Tanya Streeter (USA) 1998-12-28 Ocala, Fl, USA
CWT BFConstant weight with bifins (at sea) Men 108  Alexey Molchanov (RUS)
Women 85  Alenka Artnik (SLO)
 Nataliia Zharkova (UKR)
(fresh water) Men 75  Michele Tomasi (ITA)
CNF Constant weight without fins (at sea) Men 83  Goran Čolak (CRO) 2017-10-04 Kaş, Turkey
Women 65  Nataliia Zharkova (UKR)
(fresh water) Men 65  Michal Rišian (CZE) 2016-07-10 Weyregg, Austria
FIM Free immersion apnea (at sea) Men 81  Devrim Cenk Ulusoy (TUR) 2012-09-25 Kaş, Turkey
Women 72  Şahika Ercümen (TUR) 2014-07-24 Kaş, Turkey
VWT Variable weight apnea with fins (at sea) Men 131  Homer Leuci (ITA) 2012-09-11 Soverato, Italy
Women 111  Derya Can (TUR)
VNFVariable weight apnea without fins (at sea) Men 130  Ufuk Kocak (TUR)
Women 94  Derya Can (TUR)
Skandalopetra (at sea) Men 112  Andreas Güldner (GER) 2014-06-26 Red Sea, Egypt
Women 68.9  Karol Meyer (BRA) 2012 Bonaire, Caribbean

Guinness recognized world records

Note: Only those disciplines that are modification of existing AIDA or CMAS disciplines.
As of 20 January 2018

Discipline Gender Depth [m] Distance [m] Time Name Date Place
STA O2 Men 24:03  Aleix Segura (ESP) 28 February 2016 Barcelona
Women 18:32  Karol Meyer (BRA) 10 July 2009 Florianopolis
DYN under ice Men 175 details under CMAS world records
Women 125
DNF under ice Men 84  Nik Linder (GER) Feb 2013 Weissensee [35][36]
DNF under ice (no diving suit) Men 76.2  Stig Severinsen (DEN) Apr 2013 Qordlortoq Lake [37][38]
Women 50  Johanna Nordblad (FIN) Mar 2015 Päijänne [39]
NLT under ice Men 65  Andreas Pap (SRB) Feb 2013 Weissensee [40]


Recreational freediving in Dahab

Freediving is also a recreational activity, celebrated as a relaxing, liberating and unique experience[citation needed][peacock term] significantly different from scuba diving. The advantages freediving has over scuba diving are:[citation needed]

  • less equipment to wear
  • greater mobility and speed, but for a much more limited period.
  • lower diving costs
  • shorter preparation time
  • no decompression time for deep dives, (although it is possible to get decompression sickness, or taravana, from repetitive deep free-diving with short surface intervals).[41]
  • greater visibility in upwards direction due to a lack of exhaled air bubbles in comparison with open circuit scuba
  • no distracting noise of breathing, which can be quite loud on open circuit scuba, though rebreathers are much quieter
  • greater time in the water since air tank refills are not needed[clarification needed]

Skilled, highly trained and very fit freedivers can often go as deep as recreational scuba divers, and sometimes deeper, but for a very much shorter time. Recreational scuba diving is generally limited by diver certification to a maximum of 40 meters, for reasons of safety. Recreational divers who dive to deeper depths are generally expected by the certification agencies to have technical diver training, while freediving is only limited by the divers ability and willingness to accept the risks. The risks of freediving to these depths are significant, and a major difference is that recreational scuba certification agencies specify depth restrictions to avoid liablity issues, while freedivers are left to make their own choices regarding risk acceptance. Recreational freediving is practiced by many people ranging from the average snorkeler to the professional freediver. Recreational freediving is also frequently practiced in freshwater springs due to excellent visibility.[citation needed]

Freediving into spring caverns and caves is very different from diving in the ocean or other open water (water with an unobstructed vertical access to the surface). Even though every spring cave is unique, these are the general differences:[citation needed]

  • A dive light is usually required.
  • The freediver must usually swim laterally to exit the cave before ascending to the surface.
  • The freediver may also pull on large rocks or the cave structure to enter/exit the cave.
  • The freediver must avoid stirring up silt so that visibility is not lost.
  • To conserve energy/oxygen, if possible, the current should be avoided while entering the cave, but it can be used to help exit the cave.
  • If the freediver is penetrating the cave so far that surface light is lost, proper navigation and passage recognition is vital along with a backup dive light.
  • If large air pockets are found inside the cave, they are usually unsafe to breathe from.[citation needed]
  • Usually a monofin is impractical to use due to limited space.
  • Some cave passages are so small that shorter fins are better to use than long freediving fins.
  • The risk of drowning when freediving in an overhead environment is significantly increased. Loss of light, silting, losing the guideline in the dark and any other form of disorientation is likely to have fatal consequences.

The time that a freediver can spend underwater on a single excursion is severely restricted in comparison with scuba, and a considerably greater level of fitness is required for longer breath-hold times. A scuba diver generally has sufficient time to recover from a minor disorientating incident in a cave, as there is sufficient breathing gas to perform the recovery procedures. This is not available to the freediver, who has only the oxygen still available in their system.[citation needed]


The human body has several oxygen-conserving adaptations that manifest under diving conditions as part of the mammalian diving reflex. The adaptations include:

  • Reflex bradycardia: Significant drop in heart rate.
  • Blood-shift: Blood flow and volume is redistributed towards vital organs by means of a reflex vasoconstriction. Blood vessels distend and become engorged, which in the case of the pulmonary capillaries assists with pressure compensation that comes with increasing diving depth, and without which a largely air-filled chest cavity would simply collapse for lack of compliance.[citation needed]
  • Body-cooling: peripheral vasoconstriction results in cooling of peripheral tissue beds, which lower their oxygen demand in a thermodynamic manner. In addition, Murat et al. (2013) recently discovered that breath-holding results in prompt and substantial brain cooling, just like in diving birds and seals. (Dry) breath-holds result in cooling on the order of about 1 °C/minute, but this is likely to be greater with cold water submersion, in proportion to the magnitude and promptness of the dive response.[citation needed]
  • Splenic contraction: Releasing red blood cells carrying oxygen.[42]


Breath-holding ability and, hence dive performance, is a function of on-board oxygen stores, scope for metabolic rate reduction, efficient oxygen utilization, and hypoxia tolerance.[43] Various athletes attempt to accomplish this in various ways. Most divers rely on increasing fitness by increasing lung capacity. Some use "packing" which increases lung volume beyond normal total lung capacity.[44] Simple breath-holding practice is highly effective for increasing lung capacity.[citation needed] In addition, training is allocated to enhance blood and muscle oxygen stores, to a limited extent.[clarification needed]


Training for freediving can take many forms, some of which can be performed on land.

One example is the apnea walk. This consists of a preparation "breathe-up", followed by a short (typically 1 minute) breath hold taken at rest. Without breaking the hold, the participant then initiates a walk for as far as they can, until it becomes necessary to breathe again. Athletes can do close to 400 meters in training this way.[citation needed]

This form of training is good for accustoming muscles to work under anaerobic conditions, and for tolerance to CO2 build-up in the circulation. It is also easy to gauge progress, as increasing distance can be measured.[citation needed]

Before competition attempts, freedivers perform a preparation sequence, which usually consists of physical stretching, mental exercise and breath exercise. It may include a succession of variable length static apnea and special purging deep breaths. Results of the preparation sequence are slower metabolism, lower heart rate and breath rate, and lower levels of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream[45] and overall mental equilibrium.[citation needed]




Failing to respond to physiological warning signals or crossing mental barrier by strong will may lead to blackout underwater or on reaching the surface.[9][46] Trained freedivers are well aware of this and competitions must be held under strict supervision and with competent first-aiders on standby.[47] However this does not eliminate the risk of blackout. Freedivers are recommended to only dive with a 'buddy' who accompanies them, observing from in the water at the surface, and ready to dive to the rescue if the diver loses consciousness during the ascent.[citation needed] Due to the nature of the sport, any practice of freediving must include strict adherence to safety measures as an integral part of the activity, and all participants must also be adept in rescue and resuscitation.[citation needed] Without proper training and supervision, competitive freediving/apnea/breath-hold diving is extremely dangerous.[clarification needed][citation needed]

Statistics and notable accidents

Nicholas Mevoli, a diver from New York died on 17 November 2013 after losing consciousness on surfacing from a 3 minute 38 second dive to a depth of 72 metres during an official record attempt in the "constant weight without fins" event. He had previously reached greater depths and longer times in other disciplines.[48]

Fiction and documentaries



  • In the film Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation, Tom Cruise plays super spy Ethan Hunt fighting the forces of evil, and goes freediving in a scene to expose the villains.
  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck (1947) is a novel about a poor pearl diver, Kino, who finds the 'Pearl of Heaven', which is exceptionally valuable, changing his life forever. The novel explores themes of man's nature as well as greed and evil.
  • In South Sea Adventure (1952) by Willard Price the Hunt brothers, marooned on a coral island, use free diving to collect both pearls and fresh water.
  • In Ian Fleming's (1964) James Bond novel You Only Live Twice, the character Kissy Suzuki is an ama diver. This connection was also mentioned in the film version.
  • Man from Atlantis was a 1970s TV series which featured a superhero with the ability to breathe underwater and freedive in his own special way.
  • The Big Blue (1988) is a romantic film about two world-class freedivers, a heavily fictionalized depiction of the rivalry of freedivers Jacques Mayol and Enzo Maiorca.
  • In the movie Phoenix Blue (2001), protagonist Rick is a musician who freedives competitively.
  • The children's novel The Dolphins of Laurentum by Caroline Lawrence (2003), which takes place in ancient Rome, describes the applications of freediving (sponge and pearl diving), and its hazards, as one of the principal characters, as well as the main antagonist, try to beat each other to a sunken treasure.
  • The Freediver (2004) is a film about a talented female freediver who is discovered and brought to an island, where she is trained by an ambitious scientist to break a freediving world record currently held by an American woman.
  • In the film Into the Blue (2005) starring Jessica Alba, a group of divers find themselves in deep trouble with a drug lord after they come upon the illicit cargo of a sunken airplane in the Caribbean. Jessica Alba is an accomplished freediver, and did much of the underwater work; some other stunts were performed by Mehgan Heaney-Grier.
  • In Greg Iles' novel Blood Memory (2005), the main character Cat Ferry is an odontologist and a freediver.
  • H2O: Just Add Water Series 3 added a freediver (Will Benjamin played by Luke Mitchell) as a regular. Freediving is featured in some episodes.
  • The Greater Meaning of Water (2010) is an independent film about competitive constant weight freediving, focusing on the 'zen' of freediving.
  • In the Canadian television series Corner Gas, the character Karen Pelly (Tara Spencer-Nairn) competed in static apnea, ranking fifth in Canada with a personal best of over six minutes.
  • In the American television series Baywatch episode "The Chamber" (Session 2, Episode 17), the character Mitch Buchannon rescues a diver trapped 90 feet below the ocean surface, but almost dies while suffering the effects of decompression sickness; decompression sickness is highly improbable following freediving exposure to this depth.


Guinness holds record for longest underwater kiss which is in posession of Nik Linder (20:11 min, Mar 2012).[49]

See also


  1. ^ Rebikoff, Dimitri (1955). Free Diving. Sidgwick & Jackson. 
  2. ^ Owen, David M. (1955). A Manual for Free-Divers Using Compressed Air. Pergamon. 
  3. ^ Tailliez, Philippe; Dumas, Frederic; Cousteau, Jacques-Yves; et. al. (1957). The Complete Manual of Free Diving. New York: G. P. Putnam's sons. 
  4. ^ Ivanova, Desislava; Nihrizov, Hristo; Zhekov, Orlin (1999). "The Very Beginning". Human Contact With the Underwater World. Think Quest. Archived from the original on 2009-12-18. Retrieved 2009-09-06. 
  5. ^ Sandra Hendrikse; André Merks (12 May 2009). "Diving the Skafandro suit". Diving Heritage. Retrieved 16 October 2009. 
  6. ^ Galili, Ehud; Rosen, Baruch (2008). "Ancient Remotely-Operated Instruments Recovered Under Water off the Israeli Coast". International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. Nautical Archaeology Society. 37 (2): 283–94. doi:10.1111/j.1095-9270.2008.00187.x. 
  7. ^ Frost, F. J. (1968). "Scyllias: Diving in Antiquity". Greece and Rome (Second Series). Cambridge University Press. 15 (2): 180–5. doi:10.1017/S0017383500017435. 
  8. ^ Thucydides (2009) [431 BCE]. History of the Peloponnesian War. Translated by Crawley, Richard. 
  9. ^ a b Lundgren, Claus E. G.; Ferrigno, Massimo, eds. (1985). "Physiology of Breath-hold Diving. 31st Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society Workshop". UHMS Publication Number 72(WS-BH)4-15-87. Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  10. ^ Rahn, H.; Yokoyama, T. (1965). Physiology of Breath-Hold Diving and the Ama of Japan. United States: National Academy of Sciences – National Research Council. p. 369. ISBN 0-309-01341-0. Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  11. ^ De Silva, K. M. (1995). History of Ceylon: History of Sri Lanka. 2. Peradeniya: Ceylon University Press. p. 56. ISBN 955-589-004-8. 
  12. ^ Ἰσίδωρος Χαρακηνός [Isidore of Charax]. Τὸ τῆς Παρθίας Περιηγητικόν [Tò tēs Parthías Periēgētikón, A Journey around Parthia]. c. 1st century AD (in Ancient Greek) in Ἀθήναιος [Athenaeus]. Δειπνοσοφισταί [Deipnosophistaí, Sophists at Dinner], Book III, 93E. c. 3rd century (in Ancient Greek) Trans. Charles Burton Gulick as Athenaeus, Vol. I, p. 403. Harvard University Press (Cambridge), 1927. Accessed 13 Aug 2014.
  13. ^ Streeter's Pearls and pearling life dedicates a chapter to the Sooloo islands. Streeter was one of the leading and most influential English jewelers in the 19th century and outfitted his own Schooner the Shree-Pas-Sair which he sailed as well and on which he himself went pearl fishing in 1880. (See for illustration of divers on Schooner Pearl fishers obtaining the world's best pearls. Streeter furthermore led a consortium to compete with Baron Rothschild to lease Ruby mines in Burma.
  14. ^ "History of Aquathlon". International Aquathlon Association. Archived from the original on 8 June 2004. 
  15. ^ "Philosophy of the I.A.A". International Aquathlon Association. Archived from the original on 8 June 2004. Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
  16. ^ Cedeño O., Miguel A. (21 February 2009). "The Aquathlon (Fight Underwater) continues its development in 2009". SPORTALSUB.NET. 
  17. ^ "Aquatlon". History of CMAS. CMAS. 
  18. ^ "About Spearfishing". World Underwater Federation (CMAS). Retrieved 25 August 2017. 
  19. ^ "Underwater Fishing (Spear fishing) International Rules - English version". World Underwater Federation (CMAS). 23 January 2015. Retrieved 25 August 2017. 
  20. ^ "The History of Underwater Hockey". Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  21. ^ "CMAS Underwater Hockey Commission". Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  22. ^ "Where is it Played". Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  23. ^ McKie, N. (2004). "Freediving in cyberspace". Journal of the South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society. 34: 101–03. Retrieved 5 October 2013. 
  24. ^ AIDA International. "AIDA-disciplines". Archived from the original on 20 November 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  25. ^ Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques. "CMAS-disciplines". Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  26. ^
  27. ^…-jump-blue-cmas-freediving
  28. ^ AIDA International. "World Records". Archived from the original on 17 August 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
  29. ^ "Freediving World Team Championship 2012". Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques. "Apnoea Records". Retrieved 14 October 2016. 
  34. ^
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  41. ^ Wong, R. M. (1999). "Taravana revisited: Decompression illness after breath-hold diving". South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society Journal. 29 (3). ISSN 0813-1988. OCLC 16986801. Retrieved 8 April 2008. 
  42. ^ Milton, Sarah (2004). "Go ahead, vent your spleen!"". Journal of Experimental Biology. 
  43. ^ Schagatay E (2009). "Predicting performance in competitive apnoea diving. Part I: static apnoea". Diving Hyperb Med. 39 (2): 88–99. PMID 22753202. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  44. ^ Simpson, G.; Ferns, J.; Murat, S. (2003). "Pulmonary effects of 'lung packing' by buccal pumping in an elite breath-hold diver". Journal of the South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society. 33: 122–126. Retrieved 14 October 2016. 
  45. ^ Pollock, Neal W.; Vann, Richard D.; Thalmann, Edward D.; Lundgren, Claus E. G. (1997). Maney, Jr, E. J.; Ellis, Jr, C. H., eds. Oxygen-Enhanced Breath-hold Diving, Phase I: Hyperventilation and Carbon Dioxide Elimination. Diving for Science 1997. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (17th Annual Scientific Diving Symposium). Retrieved 16 April 2009. 
  46. ^ Lindholm, P; Pollock, N. W.; Lundgren, C. E. (2006). Breath-hold diving. Proceedings of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society/Divers Alert Network 2006 June 20–21 Workshop. Durham, NC: Divers Alert Network. ISBN 978-1-930536-36-4. Retrieved 30 April 2008. 
  47. ^ Fitz-Clarke, J. R. (2006). "Adverse events in competitive breath-hold diving". Undersea Hyperb Med. 33 (1): 55–62. PMID 16602257. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  48. ^ Skolnick, Adam (17 November 2013). "A Deep-Water Diver From Brooklyn Dies After Trying for a Record". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  49. ^

Further reading

  • (2016) The Beginners Guide to Freediving, published by
  • Callagy, Feargus (2012) A Beginners Guide to Freediving, e-book published by
  • Donald, Ian (2013) Underwater foraging – Freediving for food, Createspace publishing, USA. ISBN 978-1484904596
  • Farrell, Emma (2006) One Breath: A Reflection on Freediving, photographs by Frederic Buyle, Pynto Ltd., Hatherley, UK: ISBN 0-9542315-2-X
  • Pelizzari, Umberto & Tovaglieri, Stefano (2001) Manual of Freediving: Underwater on a single breath, English translation 2004 by Idelson-Gnocchi Ltd., Reddick, FL: ISBN 1928649270
  • Severinsen, Stig A. (2010) Breathology: The Art of Conscious Breathing, Idelson-Gnocchi Ltd., Reddick, FL: ISBN 978-1928649342
  • James Nestor (2015) "Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves", Eamon Dolan/Mariner Books New York, NY: ISBN 978-0544484078

External links