Seven Types of Freediving

Andreas Yiafas

Andreas Yiafas
AIDA Certified Instructor

The most of the people when they first learn about freediving often wonder how long and deep a freediver can go. This depends on the type of freediving that is practiced. In order to fully understand freediving depth and time achievements, it is important to learn about the different types of freediving and what is involved in each category.

There are different goals to aim for depending on the types of freediving practiced. There is freediving for time (static apnea) or for distance (dynamic apnea) or for depth.

There are seven disciplines of freediving, following is a list of the different pursuits as well as current records as of October 2015 in each discipline to give an idea of what can be achieved.

1. Static Apnea – Freediving for Time: in this discipline the freediver tries to keep his/her face submerged in the water for as long as possible. The diver is judged on the time he/she is able to hold their breath. In order to conserve oxygen and hold the breath as long as possible, the diver remains still. Static apnea is a mental challenge where the diver is required to fight the natural urge to breathe for as long as possible. Aside from the challenge, it is very good training for freediving in general and helps to prepare divers for the other disciplines. For this reason it is usually the first they master.

  • Static Apnea Male World Record: 11 min. 35 by Stephane Misfud of France, 08-6-2009 .
  • Static Apnea Female World Record 9 min. 02 by Natalia Molchanova of Russia, 29-6-2013 .

2. Dynamic Freediving – Freediving for Distance (with and without fins): in this discipline the diver swims under water in a horizontal direction and tries to swim as far as possible with a single breath. There are two variations to dynamic freediving, with and without fins. It is a combination of swimming, breath holding and mental control. It is normally practiced in a swimming pool, making it a good discipline for those training in the winter or those without access to the sea.

  • Dynamic Apnea Male World Record with Fins: 281 m by Goran Colak of Croatia, 28-6-2013.
  • Dynamic Apnea Male World Record without Fins: 226 m by Mateusz MALINA of Poland 9-11-2014.
  • Dynamic Apnea Female World Record with Fins: 237 m by Natalia Molchanova of Russia 26-09-2014.
  • Dynamic Apnea Female World Record without Fins: 182 m by Natalia Molchanova of Russia 27-06-2013.

3. Free Immersion – Freediving for Depth: this discipline challenges divers to descend as deep as they can manage. The freediver makes use of a rope to pull himself /herself down during descent and again up on ascent. No fins are employed or any other type of propulsion device. New divers find free immersion to be the most enjoyable as it is easy to control speed and ear equalization and descent and ascent techniques are not difficult.

  • Free Immersion Male World Record: 121 m by William Trubridge of New Zealand 10-4-2011.
  • Free Immersion Female World Record: 91 m by Natalia Molchanova of Russia 21-9-2013.

4. Constant Weight Freediving for Depth – No Fins: this discipline is considered to be the purest and most difficult form of freediving. The diver only employs his strength of muscle and swimming technique to descend as far as possible, no other aid is allowed. Descent is slower than when a diver is using fins or a rope and oxygen is used up quickly by swimming. In order to achieve perfect coordination between propulsion, equalization, technique and buoyancy, the freediver must indeed work hard.

  • Constant Weight without Fins Male World Record: 101 m by William Trubridge of New Zealand 19-12-2010.
  • Constant Weight without Fins Female World Record: 71 m Natalia Molchanova of Russia 13-5-2015.

5. Constant Weight Freediving for Depth with Fins: In this discipline a diver uses either two standard fins or a single monofin to propel himself/herself down as deep as possible. The freediver is only permitted to touch the vertical rope to stop descent and to begin ascent. This form of freediving is the deepest allowed in competitions and also the most enjoyable. The diver can use the powerful fins to descend deep and then just stop kicking and freefall downwards.

  • Constant Weight with Fins Male World Record: 128 m by Alexey Molchanov of Russia, 19-9-2013.
  • Constant Weight with Fins Female World Record: 101 m by Natalia Molchanova of Russia, 23-9-2011.

6. Variable Weight – Freediving for Depth: divers in this category use a heavy sled to pull them downwards. This device is attached to vertical ropes and allows the diver to descend at an extremely rapid rate. In this way the diver can go far deeper as they do not waste precious oxygen swimming during the descent. The ascent is made by swimming or pulling on the rope. This discipline can be dangerous due to the quick descent which makes equalization more difficult. Divers can sometimes descend deeper than they can ascend. Variable weight freediving is therefore only practiced by advanced divers and not used in competitions.

  • Variable Weight Male World Record: 145 m by William WINRAM of Canada, 3-9-2013 .
  • Variable Weight Female World Record: 127 m by Natalia Molchanova of Russia, 6-6-2012.

7. No-Limits – Freediving for Depth: This is the most extreme discipline of freediving for depth. The diver uses a ballast weight, such as a sled, to descend rapidly. To ascend the diver uses an inflatable lift bag or balloon or other buoyancy device. No swimming is involved which means that divers can descend to greater depths than in other disciplines. This is by far the most risky of any freediving discipline because descending to such depth; the diver has to depend totally on their equipment to ascend to the surface. This form of freediving is not allowed in competitions due to the potential dangers.

  • No-Limits Male World Record: 214 m by Herbert Nitsch of Austria, 14-6-2007.
  • No-Limits Female World Record: 160 m by Tania Streeter of the U.S.A, 17-8-2002.

To Sum Up about Freediving Disciplines:

A freediver may choose to dive for time, depth or distance. New freedivers should experiment with a variety of disciplines with an instructor, in order to decide which category they are interested in. As we have seen above, the goal of each freedive will depend upon the discipline chosen.