Greek word = “without breathing”
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to dive without bubbles?
The sport of freediving is often compared to scuba diving, but the two couldn’t be any more different.
Imagine entering the ocean without a sound…
Silence. Depth. Peace.
Keep reading for more information on the history of freediving, freediving safety, and the PADI Freediver course.
History of Freediving*
Although freediving may seem like a modern sport, humans are no stranger to the depths of the ocean.
It is a known fact that humans have been freediving for food for more than 8,000 years.
Besides food, humans sought out the depths of the ocean for trade purposes…
Gathering pearls and sponges for trade have been seen in various cultures across the globe.
In 332 BC Alexander the Great used freedivers to dismantle the booms that prevented the ships from entering the harbor during the siege of Tyre.
The 20th century brought an acceleration of progress when it came to the equipment and techniques for freediving.
Brief timeline of pivotal freediving events:
1927- Jacques O’Marchal invented the first mask designed to enclose the nose
1933 - Louis de Corlieu patented the first set of fins, also known as “swimming propellers”, later modified and mass produced by American Owen Churchill, and used by U.S. and British forces in WWII
1938 - Maxime Forjot improved the mask with a compressible rubber pouch for the nose that allowed it to pinch the nose and help with equalization
1949 - Marks the birth of modern day freediving when Raimondo Boucher dove 30m on a dare in Naples, Italy
1951 - Physics student Hugh Bradner developed the first neoprene suit, later produced by the Navy in the Korean War
1960- Enzo Majorca earned his first world record, reaching 45 meters
1962 - Enzo Majorca became the first person to reach 50 meters
1967 - Bob Croft became the first person to dive beyond 64 meters
The success of freediving as a recreational sport can be attributed to three pioneers: Bob Croft, Jacques Mayol, and Enzo Majorca.
Bob Croft was a U.S. Navy Instructor tasked with teaching sailors how to safely escape submarines at depth.
He was able to hold his breath for over six minutes and became the first person to reach a depth beyond 64 meters.
Bob Croft is also credited for the technique called “lung packing”, forcing extra air into the lungs right before a dive.
Frenchman Jacques Mayol became the first person to freedive to 100m.
He and Enzo Majorca were known to have a competitive feud - each one trying to dive deeper than the other.
In fact, the governing body at the time CMAS, decided to stop affirming records in the 1970s after becoming increasingly worried about the depths to which Majorca and Mayol were reaching.
This didn’t really stop the world record attempts.
In 1988, Angela Bandini broke the record and reached 107 meters.
Modern Day Freediving*
Freediving as a sport has evolved tremendously since its rapid start in the 1900s.
Several world record champions from around the world have claimed their ranks as they reached insurmountable depths.
Some of these champions include: William Trubridge, Tanya Streeter, Umberto Pelizarri, Natalia Molchanova, and Herbert Nitsch.
Natalia Molchanova is the mother of world famous freediving champion Alexey Molchanov.
Alexey Molchanov has visited DXDIVERS and provided exclusive training and seminars over the past three years.
Don’t miss his seminar next month on July 16th and 17th (2022). Contact us for more details.
Natalia Molchanova was the first freediver to surpass 100m for constant weight diving.
In 2009, she reached a depth of 101 meters and in the same year set five world records while taking home five gold medals.
William Trubridge was the first freediver to reach 100m in the constant weight discipline without fins.
This is significant because before he broke the record in 2003, diving to those depths without fins was thought to be impossible.
Herbert Nitsch is an Austrian freediver and current No Limits world record holder - after reaching 214m.
Obviously, these athletes have trained for these circumstances and understand the necessary safety precautions.
This all starts with becoming a certified freediver.
PADI Freediver Course
There are many benefits to becoming a certified freediver.
Overall, the sport is very relaxing and meditative - great for nervous system and mood regulation.
It also has a low barrier to entry as the gear you need is minimal and doesn’t have to be expensive to start.
Not only does the PADI freediver course dive into some history and facts about the sport, you will also learn essential safety and rescue techniques.
The course itself takes about 2 days, not including self-study.
To begin, you must complete the PADI Freediver eLearning, an introduction to the theory and physics of freediving.
This takes about 4-6 hours to complete and will provide a solid foundation for your training.
Next is the pool session.
There’s a maximum of four divers per freediving instructor to ensure safety.
A class of two is required so you can work on the very necessary buddy skills required to earn your certification.
After you have completed the pool session according to PADI standards, you will complete two ocean dives.
The ocean dives are your chance to put your skills and knowledge to the test as you attempt to hit the minimum 30 foot depth.
With this certification, you are permitted to reach a depth of 60 feet (~18m).
You will also be exposed to the different disciplines within freediving:
No Limits - the diver is pulled down by a weighted sled that is attached to a cable to a boat, and the diver is assisted to the surface using an inflatable airbag. This discipline is reserved for seasoned and professional freedivers. Known to be the deepest of the disciplines.
Variable Weight - the diver again uses a weighted sled but the weight of the sled is limited to a third of the diver’s body weight. The diver ascends unassisted, meaning without an inflatable airbag.
Constant Weight - as the name suggests, the diver maintains a consistent weight without dumping or adding weight, or using the line for assistance at any point of the dive. This is practiced during the PADI freediver course.
Unassisted Constant Weight (No Fins) - the same philosophy as Constant Weight but this time without the added benefit of fins on the descent or ascent.
Free Immersion - a diver with or without weights pulls down a weighted line and returns the same way, pulling down with the same weight used to descend. In the PADI freediver course, this discipline is done with constant weight.
Static Apnea - a discipline where the diver practices their breath hold by submerging their face for the maximum possible time while being monitored by a buddy.
Dynamic Apnea - essentially is underwater swimming horizontally on a single breath with or without fins.
Freediving Safety & Regulation
During the course, your instructor will show you how to properly weight yourself.
Many freediving accidents occur from divers being overweighted.
You will also get the chance to use lanyards - a highly regarded piece of safety equipment that keeps you on the line in case you black out.
Other safety skills you will learn:
- Loss of motor control (LOC) recovery
- Shallow water blackout recovery
- Buddy diving
- Shallow water escort
- How to communicate with your buddy
- How to evaluate conditions before diving
- Proper equalization
Buddy diving and evaluating conditions are hugely important.
With freediving, if the conditions are less than ideal, for example choppy conditions or low visibility, it will be hard to keep track of your partner which can lead to accidents.
Being able to communicate with your buddy while “staying in the zone” is crucial so each of you knows who’s going down and who needs to stay on the surface.
The technique is known as one up, one down. Meaning one of you stays on the surface while the other does their dive.
The PADI Freediver course also encourages shallow water escort, which is when your buddy meets you at a shallow depth to watch you closely as you ascend to the surface.
Of all the possible accidents when it comes to freediving, shallow water blackout is the most prevalent.
It is typically caused by the diver overexerting themselves and not spending enough time recovering between dives to oxygenate the blood.
Shallow water blackout can largely be avoided with proper training and taking frequent breaks.
It’s Your Turn!
There you have it!
A rundown on the history of freediving, its modern day practice, a brief introduction to the PADI Freediver course, and a taste of the types of rescue and safety techniques you will learn.
Freediving is an incredible sport fusing the power of meditation with physics with the calming effects of the water.
With freediving, you can take up many hobbies within the sport like photography, spearfishing, or even try competitive freediving.
If you have any questions about the PADI Freediver course here at DXDIVERS, feel free to leave your questions in the comments below!
We look forward to seeing you out there this summer.
Learn more about the PADI Freediver course at DXDIVERS.
*This information was gathered from Emma Farrell at deeperblue.com and the United States Freediving Federation’s website.