We might be ScubaOtter, but we also love freediving!

The art of holding your breath and diving underneath the ocean blue is a whole other discipline than cruising down under with your self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA)!

And there are some crazy records out there held by some absolute super-humans.

Freediving is also known as Apnea – from the Greek word a-pnoia which literally translates to ‘without breathing’. The concept is based on our mammalian diving reflex, which is totally subconscious. 

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Basically, as soon as water encloses our face, our body slows our heartbeat down by shifting our bloodstream from our extremities to the heart and brain.

This redirects all energy to our vital functions and preserves oxygen for essential operations. The effect is present in dolphins, seals and other mammals!

The deeper you dive, the stronger the reflex. The sport dates back thousands of years – likely starting when humans were searching for fish, shells and sponges!

After a lot of training, freedivers can increase their ability to deal with the urge to breathe and have reached some truly astronomical depths in the ocean.

Read on to hear all about the current world records in the world of competitive breath-hold diving!

We’ve broken it down by the disciplines in the world of freediving, including definitions so you can understand exactly what the wild acronyms in this world mean.

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Constant weight 

CWT is constant weight freediving – the freediver descends with the same weight as they ascend with, so they can’t drop any weights during the dive. CNF is the same but with no fins.

Freediving Record Holder Discipline Depth Time Year
Alexey Molchanov (Men) CWT 131m (429ft) 4:10 2021
Alenka Artnik (Women) CWT 120m (387ft) 3:32 2021
William Trubridge (Men) CNF 102m (335ft) 4:14 2016
Alessia Zecchini (Women) CNF 74m (243ft) 3:10 2021

 

Static apnea

STA is static apnea – how long a freediver can hold their breath for. This can be with or without oxygen.

Freediving Record Holder Discipline Time Year
Branko Petrović (Men) STA Without O2 11:54 2014
Natalia Molchanova (Women) STA Without O2 9:02 2013
Budimir Šobat (Men) STA With O2 24:11 2018
Karoline Mariechen (Women) STA With O2 18:32 2009

 

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 Free immersion

FIM is free immersion when a freediver uses their arms to pull themselves down a line, or vertical guide rope without fins.

Freediving Record Holder Depth Time Year
Alexey Molchanov (Men) 126m (413ft) 4:30 2021
Alessia Zecchini (Women) 101m (331m) 3:50 2021

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Variable weight

VWT is Variable weight freediving when you can drop weight during the dive. A diver may carry weights to assist their quick descent, then drop the weights in order to surface easier.

Freediving Record Holder Depth Time Year
Stavros Kastrinakis (Men) 146m (479ft) 3:33 2015
Nanja Van Den Broek (Women) 130m (427ft) 3:00 2015

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No limits

NLT is no limits freediving. This is where the freediver uses a weighted metal sled to gain depth, and an airbag or inflatable device to help them to the surface. All kinds of equipment are permitted. Note – it’s a rare practice due to the associated dangers!

Freediving Record Holder Depth Time Year
Herbert Nitsch (Men) 214m (702ft) 4:24 2007
Tanya Streeter (Women) 160m (526ft) 3:26 2002

Dynamic

DYN if dynamic freediving; like constant weight but over distance, not depth, typically taking place in a pool. DNF is the same, but with no fins.

Freediving Record Holder Depth Time Year
Giorgos Panagiotakis & Mateusz Malina (Men) DYN 300m (984ft) 2016
Magdalena Solich-Talanda (Women) DYN 257m (843ft) 2019
Mateusz Malina (Men) DNF 244m (801ft) 2016
Magdalena Solich-Talanda (Women) DNF 191m (627ft) 2017

https://youtu.be/tCpJST_c2Ko

Pretty impressive, right?! Perhaps these divers are hiding some gills under their wetsuits

Remember that freediving is an endurance sport – you can’t start breaking records without a lot of training and practice.

It takes many years for your body to learn to adapt to the pressures of great depths underwater. Which makes it even more incredible that these divers have achieved so much!

Are you a freediver? What’s your favorite discipline? Let us know in the comments below!

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Tash Editor

Tash is a Divemaster, freediver, ocean conservationist, and photographer. She’s currently based down under in Aussie, working as a photographer and guide on the Ningaloo Reef.

When she’s not in the water, showing people epic marine life, she’s communicating about it as a freelance content writer and social media manager.

In her spare time, you’ll catch her diving some more, exploring, doing yoga, and finding adventures to go on

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