Free-diving (or freediving) is a form of underwater diving that relies on a diver's ability to hold his or her breath until resurfacing rather than on the use of a breathing apparatus such as scuba gear. Examples include breath-hold spear fishing, freedive photography, recreational breath-hold diving, apnea competitions, and to some degree, snorkeling. The activity that garners the most public attention is the extreme sport of competitive apnea in which competitors attempt to attain great depths, times, or distances on a single breath.
Freediving is a technique used with various aquatic activities. Examples of recognized freediving activities are (non-) competitive freediving, (non-) competitive spearfishing, freediving photography and mermaid shows. Less recognized examples of freediving include, but are not limited to, synchronized swimming, underwater rugby, underwater hockey, underwater hunting other than spearfishing, underwater target shooting and snorkeling. The discussion remains whether freediving is only a synonym for breath-hold diving or whether it describes a specific group of underwater activities. The term 'freediving' is often associated with competitive breath-hold diving or competitive apnea.
Competitive freediving is currently governed by two world associations: AIDA International (International Association for Development of Apnea) and CMAS (World Underwater Federation). Most types of competitive freediving have in common that it is an individual sport based on the best individual achievement. An exception to this rule is 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. There are currently nine disciplines used by official governing bodies and a dozen disciplines that are only practiced locally. In this article, the recognized disciplines of AIDA and CMAS will be described. All disciplines can be done by both men and women and, while done outdoors, no differences in the environment between records are recognized any longer. 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 done solely as record attempts.
The following official disciplines are recognized by AIDA, CMAS, or both.
- Static Apnea is timed breath holding and is usually attempted in a pool (AIDA).
- Dynamic Apnea With Fins- This is underwater swimming in a pool for distance. For this discipline the athlete can choose whether to use bi-fins or the monofin (AIDA, CMAS).
- Dynamic Apnea Without Fins- This is underwater swimming in a pool for distance without any swimming aids like fins (AIDA).
For all AIDA disciplines, the depth the athlete will attempt is announced before the dive. This is accepted practice for both competitions and record attempts.
- Constant Weight Apnea. 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. 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 (AIDA).
- Constant Weight Apnea Without Fins 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 (AIDA).
- Free Immersion Apnea is a discipline in which the athlete uses the vertical guiderope to pull him or herself down to depth and back to the surface. It is known for its ease compared with the Constant Weight disciplines, while the athlete is still not allowed to release weights (AIDA).
- Variable Weight Apnea 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 while using their fins (AIDA).
- No-Limits Apnea 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 (AIDA).
- The Jump Blue also called "The Cube" is a discipline in which an athlete has to descend and swim as far as possible in a cubic form of 15 x 15 meters (CMAS).
Each organization has its own rules on recognizing an attempt. These can be found on the website from the respective organizations.
AIDA recognized world records
|Constant Weight Apnea (CWT)||Men||128||-||Alexey Molchanov||2013-09-19||Kalamata, Greece|
|Constant Weight Apnea (CWT)||Women||101||-||Natalia Molchanova||2011-09-22||Kalamata, Greece|
|Constant Weight Apnea Without Fins (CNF)||Men||101||-||William Trubridge||2010-12-16||Dean's Blue Hole, Long Island Bahamas|
|Constant Weight Apnea Without Fins (CNF)||Women||69||-||Natalia Molchanova||2013-09-16||Kalamata, Greece|
|Free Immersion Apnea (FIM)||Men||121||-||William Trubridge||2011-04-10||Dean's Blue Hole, Long Island Bahamas|
|Free Immersion Apnea (FIM)||Women||91||-||Natalia Molchanova||2013-09-21||Kalamata, Greece|
|Variable Weight Apnea (VWT)||Men||145||-||William Winram||2013-09-03||Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt|
|Variable Weight Apnea (VWT)||Women||127||-||Natalia Molchanova||2012-06-06||Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt|
|No-Limits Apnea (NLT)||Men||214||-||Herbert Nitsch||2007-06-14||Spetses, Greece|
|No-Limits Apnea (NLT)||Women||160||-||Tanya Streeter||2002-08-17||Turks and Caicos|
|Static Apnea (STA)||Men||-||11 min 35 sec||Stéphane Mifsud||2009-06-08||Hyères, Var, France|
|Static Apnea (STA)||Women||-||9 min 02 sec||Natalia Molchanova||2013-06-29||Belgrade, Serbia|
|Dynamic Apnea With Fins (DYN)||Men||281||-||Goran Čolak||2013-06-28||Belgrade, Serbia|
|Dynamic Apnea With Fins (DYN)||Women||234||-||Natalia Molchanova||2013-06-28||Belgrade, Serbia|
|Dynamic Apnea Without Fins (DNF)||Men||225||-||Goran Čolak||2013-11-21||Pančevo, Serbia|
|Dynamic Apnea Without Fins (DNF)||Women||182||-||Natalia Molchanova||2013-06-27||Belgrade, Serbia|
CMAS recognized world records
|Dynamic apnea with fins in Olympic pool (no salty water)||Women||215.59||-||Ilaria Bonin, Italy||2012-11-03||Antalya, Turkey||Waiting approval|
|Static apnea||Men||-||10:05||Branco Petrovic, Serbia||2012-10-01||Antalya, Turkey||Waiting approval|
|Static apnea||Women||-||07:30||Veronica Dittes, Austria||2012-10-01||Antalya, Turkey||Waiting approval|
|Jump Blue apnea with fins (at sea)||Women||168.69||-||Ilaria Bonin, Italy||2012-10-31||Kemer, Antalya, Turkey||Waiting approval|
|Jump Blue apnea with fins (at sea)||Men||185||-||Michele Giurgola, Italy||2012-10-31||Kemer, Antalya, Turkey||Waiting approval|
|Jump Blue apnea with fins (at sea)||Men||185||-||Xaier Delpit, France||2012-10-31||Kemer, Antalya, Turkey||Waiting approval|
|Variable weight apnea without fin (at sea)||Men||81||-||Devrim Cenk Ulusoy, Turkey||2012-09-26||Kas, Antalya, Turkey||Waiting approval|
|Free immersion apnea without fin (at sea)||Men||81||-||Devrim Cenk Ulusoy, Turkey||2012-09-25||Kas, Antalya, Turkey||Waiting approval|
|Constant Weight with fins (at sea)||Men||93||-||Homer Leuci, Italy||2012-09-15||Soverato, Italy||Waiting approval|
|Variable weight apnea with fin (at sea)||Men||131||-||Homer Leuci. Italy||2012-09-11||Soverato, Italy||Waiting approval|
|Constant Weight with fins (at sea)||Women||70||-||Şahika Ercümen, Turkey||2011-11-10||Dahab, Egypt||Approved|
|Variable weight apnea without fin (at sea)||Women||60||-||Şahika Ercümen, Turkey||2011-11-10||Dahab, Egypt||Approved|
|Constant Weight with fins (at no salty water)||Men||70||-||Michele Tomasi, Italy||2011-10-02||Trento, Italy||Approved|
|Constant Weight with fins (at sea)||Men||87||-||Devrim Cenk Ulusoy, Turkey||2011-10-02||Kas/Antalya, Turkey||Approved|
|Free immersion apnea without fin (at sea)||Men||80||-||Devrim Cenk Ulusoy, Turkey||2011-10-01||Kas/Antalya, Turkey||Approved|
|Constant Weight with fins (at sea)||Men||86||-||Homer Leuci, Italy||2011-09-09||Calabria, Italy||Approved|
|Jump Blue apnea with fins (at sea)||Men||175.66||-||Michele Fucarino, Italy||2011-09-04||Tenerife, Spain||Approved|
|Jump Blue apnea with fins (at sea)||Women||158.54||-||Ilaria Bonin, Italy||2011-09-04||Tenerife/Spain||Approved|
|Static apnea||Men||-||09:32||Branco Petrovic, Serbia||2011-09-02||Tenerife, Spain||Approved|
|Static apnea||Women||-||06:38||Sophie Jacquin, France||2011-09-02||Tenerife, Spain||Approved|
|Dynamic apnea with fins in Olympic pool (no salty water)||Men||250||-||Goran Colak, Croatia||2011-09-01||Tenerife, Spain||Approved|
|Jump Blue apnea with fins (at sea)||Men||171.45||-||Alfredo Roen, Spain||2010-10-10||Tenerife, Spain||Approved|
|Jump Blue apnea with fins (at sea)||Women||144||-||Monica Barbero, Italy||2010-10-10||Tenerife, Spain||Approved|
|Dynamic apnea with fins in Olympic pool (no salty water)||Men||248.52||-||Goran Colak, Croatia||2010-09-13||Zagabria/Croatia||Approved|
|Dynamic apnea with fins in Olympic pool (no salty water)||Women||205.44||-||Ilaria Bonin, Italy||2010-06-12||Lignano, Italy||Approved|
|Constant Weight with fins (at sea)||Men||84||-||Homer Leuci, Italy||2009-10-04||Andora, Italy||Approved|
|Constant Weight with fins (at sea)||Men||83.1||-||Devrim Cenk Ulusoy, Turkey||2008-10-26||Antalya, Turkey||Approved|
|Jump Blue apnea with fins (at sea)||Men||159.54||-||Devrim Cenk Ulusoy, Turkey||2008-09-05||Antalya, Turkey||Approved|
|Constant Weight with fins (at no salty water)||Women||57||-||Tanya Streeter, USA||1998-12-28||Ocala, Fl, USA||Approved|
|Constant Weight with fins (at sea)||Women||67||-||Tanya Streeter, USA||1998-09-19||S.Maria Nevernese, Italy||Approved|
|Constant Weight with fins (at no salty water)||Men||55||-||Eric Cherrier, France||1997-08-09||Lac De Sainte Croix Du Verdon||Approved|
Freediving is also a recreational activity, celebrated as a relaxing, liberating and unique experience significantly different from SCUBA diving. The advantages freediving has over scuba diving are:
- less equipment to wear
- greater mobility and speed
- lower diving costs
- shorter preparation time
- no decompression time for deep dives
- greater visibility due to a lack of exhaled air bubbles
- no distracting sounds like regulator breathing
- greater time in the water since air tank refills are not needed
Experienced freedivers can often go as deep as scuba divers, and sometimes deeper.[clarification needed] 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 and underwater caverns. This type of freediving into spring caverns and caves is very different from diving in the ocean. Even though every spring cave is unique, these are the general differences:
- 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 breath from.
- 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 human body has several reflex oxygen-conserving adaptations that manifest under diving conditions. The adaptations include:
- Reflex bradycardia: Drop in heart rate.
- Splenic contraction: Releasing red blood cells carrying oxygen.
- 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
- 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 greater with cold water submersion, in proportion to the magnitude and promptness of the dive response
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. Various athletes attempt to accomplish this in various ways. By and large most divers rely on increasing fitness by increasing lung capacity, by `packing´ and hyperventilating, both of which increase lung oxygen stores. Needless to say, for simple breath-holding increasing lung capacity is highly effective. In addition, training is allocated to enhance blood and muscle oxygen stores, to a limited extent. A substantial proportion of performance is the result of metabolic suppression and redistribution of blood oxygen stores, the so-called dive response. Increasing lung capacity has some draw-backs, however.
Some deep-divers, like Sebastien Murat, model their diving on animal-diving strategies by diving on `empty´ lungs or a passive exhale. This has the effect of greatly accentuating the dive response. In non-ballast assisted dives it also minimize the effort of descend to the absolute minimum, since buoyancy is reduced. This helps conserve precious oxygen stores and accentuate the dive response. In addition, the `empty lung´ approach also limits the risk of a reflex reversal of the dive response during ascent, which is triggered by lung re-expansion. Some divers seek to bypass this lung re-expansion reflex that can occur over the last 30 m of ascent by exhaling over the last 5 or so meters. Though this may lock-down the dive response, it would require exhaling from depths of at least 20m to completely side-step. Moreover, it cannot avoid the fact that a substantial amount of oxygen is lost by exhaling, and at the worse possible moment, when the diver is already low on oxygen.
The empty lungs approach offers the additional advantage of substantially lowering nitrogen loads, which in very deep-diving, would otherwise result in narcosis, poor decision making ability, potentially, loss of consciousness, and a high probability of decompression illness, though admittedly it substantially decreases the oxygen available for maintaining consciousness. For ballast-assisted dives, instead of doing a safety-stop during the final stages of ascent, Murat goes into breath-hold mode for up to 30" before descending to lower metabolism. This paradoxical strategy substantially reduces nitrogen uptake which would otherwise occur because of a combination of steep pressure gradient and elevated metabolism. However, it must be noted that such techniques generally require considerable pressure adaptation and, beyond depth of about 60 or so meters, the use of sinus and ear cavity-flooding, since there exists essentially no air for pressure compensation of uppermost airways. Centrally, it requires a high degree of metabolic control to potentiate the dive response.
Training for freediving can take many forms and be done on the 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.
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.
Before competition attempt, freedivers perform preparation sequence, which usually consists of physical stretching, mental exercise and breath exercise. It may include sequention of variable length static apnea, special purging deep breaths, hyperventilation. Result of preparation sequence is slower metabolism, lower heart rate and breath rate, lower level of CO2 in bloodstream and overall mental equilibrium. Failing ordinary warning signals or crossing mental barrier by strong will may lead to shallow water blackout or deep water blackout. Trained freedivers are well aware of this and will only dive under strict and first aid competent supervision. However this does not eliminate the risk of deep or shallow water blackout. All safe freedivers have a 'buddy' who accompanies them, observing from within the water at the surface. 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. Without proper training and supervision, freediving/apnea/breath-hold diving is extremely dangerous.
Archaeological evidence suggests that people have been freediving since the 5th century BC. The first known were the haenyeo in Korea who collected shells and sponges to sell to others. The Ama Divers from Japan began to collect pearls 2,000 years ago. Both Plato and Homer mention the sponge as being used for bathing in ancient Greece and this may represent an early reference to commercial freediving to obtain them; the island of Kalymnos was a main centre of diving for sponges. By using weights 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) for as long as 5 minutes to collect sponges. Spearfishing around the Mediterranean Sea was important for the historical background for the movement of the apnea sport.
- 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 for ever. The novel explores themes of man's nature as well as greed and evil.
- 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.
- Ocean Men (2001) is a documentary film about the art and science of freediving, featuring two of its most outstanding exponents: Francisco "Pipín" Ferreras and Umberto Pelizzari.
- 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.
- McKie, N (2004). "Freediving in cyberspace.". Journal of the South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society. 34: 101–3. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
- AIDA International. "World Records". Retrieved 2013-11-29.
- Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques. "Apnoea Records". Retrieved 2013-04-05.
- Skolnick, Adam (November 17, 2013). "A Deep-Water Diver From Brooklyn Dies After Trying for a Record". The New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
- Schagatay E (2009). "Predicting performance in competitive apnoea diving. Part I: static apnoea.". Diving Hyperb Med 39 (2): 88–99. PMID 22753202. Retrieved 2013-10-06.
- 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 2013-10-06.
- Neal W. Pollock, Richard D. Vann, Edward D. Thalmann and Claus EG Lundgren. (1997). "Oxygen-Enhanced Breath-hold Diving, Phase I: Hyperventilation and Carbon Dioxide Elimination". In: EJ Maney, Jr and CH Ellis, Jr (Eds.) Diving for Science...1997. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (17th Annual Scientific Diving Symposium). Retrieved 2009-04-16.
- Lindholm P, Pollock NW, Lundgren CEG (2006). Breath-hold diving. Proceedings of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society/Divers Alert Network 2006 June 20–21 Workshop.. Durham, NC, United States: Divers Alert Network. ISBN 978-1-930536-36-4. Retrieved 2008-04-30.
- Lundgren, Claus EG; 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 2009-04-16.
- Fitz-Clarke, JR (2006). "Adverse events in competitive breath-hold diving.". Undersea Hyperb Med 33 (1): 55–62. PMID 16602257. Retrieved 2013-10-06.
- 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 2009-04-16.
- Sandra Hendrikse and André Merks (12 May 2009). "Diving the Skafandro suit". Diving Heritage. Retrieved 2009-10-16.
- Callagy, Feargus (2012) A Beginners Guide to Freediving, e-book published by DeeperBlue.com
- 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
|Look up free-diving in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Freediving.|
- Association Internationale pour le Développement de l'Apnée (AIDA)
- CMAS Apnoea Commission
- Collaborative cartography of freediving spots/Cartographie collaborative des spots apnée (French)
- DeeperBlue website
- SSI freediving program