Here’s a test: Take a deep breath, and hold it for as long as you can.
How long did you last? 10 seconds? 30 seconds? 60 seconds?
The average length of time someone can hold their breath is between 30–90 seconds.
Now, imagine holding your breath for 10 minutes or more. That’s right, 10 minutes. Oh, and you’ll be deep underwater with no breathing equipment.
Welcome to the world of freediving, where water loving athletes from around the world participate in one of the most extreme sports out there, where swimming underwater and holding your breath has been turned into an art form.
Sometimes confused for scuba diving, the two sports differ in an extreme way: When scuba diving, you are diving deep underwater with the assistance of breathing equipment. In the case of freediving, you are diving without any equipment and largely depend on your training in order to withstand holding your breath for several minutes at a time.
In this article we’ll be covering the basics, different competitions and the most common answers to the most asked questions abut the world of freediving, so take a deep breath as we dive in!
Although the sport of the free diving has been around since 1949, freediving has been a part of human history for at least the last 8,000 years. No, not as a sport—as a way to source food, pearls, sponges and shells, among other things.
Archeologists have proved this due to their findings around the world, partiality from Chile where they discovered 6,000-year-old mummified remains of divers who suffered from exostosis. It’s a condition now also referred to as surfer’s ear, as it causes the bones of the ear canal to grow larger and across the ear opening—a direct effect of spending extended periods of times in cold, deep water.
As for modern freediving, the sport didn’t officially take off until 1949. But the story really starts 36 years earlier when a Greek sponge diver, Stotti Georghio, made a record breaking dive of nearly 200 feet to locate a ship’s missing anchor, nearly dying during his successful 3-minute dive. The story grabbed headlines across the world, with people taking notice and coming up with innovating ideas on withstanding the pressure, cold and visual difficulties of diving for extended periods in deep water. This gave birth to the initial prototypes of the wetsuit and diving masks, both which were of interest to the US Navy, who purchased many of the initial products for their wartime use.
Freediving Entered the World as a Sport
Which leads us up to 1949, and where freediving entered the world as a sport and recreational activity. The man responsible for bringing modern freediving to the world is one Raimondo Bucher, who was an Italian air force captain. His impressive feat? Freediving nearly 100 feet near naples to the bottom of the sea on a bet. And in the process, shattering scientists predictions that he would die from the extreme pressure and never resurface.
From that moment on, the sport of free diving took the world by storm, and today, has produced some of the most mind-blowing records of freediving ever seen. Constantly pushing the human limits of what can be achieved, today’s freediving is, for the lack of better words, leaving everyone breathless in the extremes that are reached.
The Three Main Types of Freediving
No Limits Freediving (NLT)
The most famous, but most dangerous, type of free diving in the world: No Limits Freediving. It’s the type of freediving you hear of when new records are broken, the kind of freediving that takes the world by storm and throws the diver in the world’s spotlight. What makes it so difficult, so dangerous, yet so fascinating?
When partaking in a No Limits dive, you’ll use a weight to take you as deep as possible into the water. Then, you’ll use an buoyancy device to return you to the surface, all while holding your breath. It’ not as popular due to the intense training and it’s extremeness, but is known worldwide as the method of freediving that forerunners of the sport, Enzo Majorca and Jacques Mayol used in their record-breaking dives.
Pool Freediving – Static Apnea
When it comes to Pool free diving, Static Apnea has got to be one of (if not the) most difficult to master. What makes it so challenging is that you are simply lying facedown in the water, not moving, while holding your breath. While that may not sound nearly as difficult as free diving in the sea, you have nothing to distract you in the pool when you are just laying there. You not moving, not in unfamiliar with waters, not reaching a physical destination point that marks your journey. You need a lot of mental strength to be able to withstand the battle of your own mind and body while taking part in Static Apnea.
Constant Weight Freediving
Now that we’ve gotten two most extreme versions of freediving out of the way, let’s move onto the (no less extreme) disciplines of free diving, like Constant Weight Freediving. This competition type focuses on the depth of the free dive, and is often called the “purest form of freediving” by those partaking in the sport. Simply put, the diver will dive as deep as possible and return to the surface without any type of rope or a change in a weight.
There are two main disciplines within of Constant Weight Freediving: Constant weight with fins (CWT), and constant weight without fins. A lot of free divers use two or a single fin attached to their feet, as in the case of Constant weight with fins. For the second Constant Weight discipline, Constant Weight Without Fins is where divers dive without fins. Within the latter category, there have been some incredible records broken with divers going even deeper than the divers in the No-Limits diving, which most thought would be completely impossible.
Are you excited by freediving as we are? Don’t worry, this isn’t your only glimpse of this extreme sport here at GOWFO – we’ll be diving deeper (excuse the pun) into every aspect of the sport over the next few weeks. From earning more about the modern day greats, pioneers of the sport and everything else between, you’ll be fully immersed into the fascinating world of freediving.
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