If you’ve never heard of freediving you’re not alone, while freediving might seem like a modern invention in the sport of diving, it’s roots are ancient and it’s one of the most extreme forms of the sport and not for the light-hearted!
In modern freediving the goal of freediving is to dive as deep as possible underwater, stay there as long as possible and is done without the aid of a scuba diving regulator (breathing apparatus).
Fascinatingly, we know that people have been freediving for at least 8000 years for food and in the thousands of years after that people have dived without equipment for the building of huge structures.
In more recent times, the well reported story of Stotti Georghios made headlines in 1913 dived to 60 metres to retrieve a lost anchor from an Italian warship. Simply put, mind-blown.
Today, modern freediving is often competitive with many freedivers using masks and diving fins to make the experience a touch easier!
One of the most important figures of the freediving revolution of Bob Croft, a US navy diving instructor who taught submariners how to escape from submarines. Spending nearly 25 hours a week diving, he began to treat himself to hold his breath for extreme amounts of time, eventually being able to dive without aid from a regulator for over six minutes.
Croft developed impressive techniques for increasing the oxygen in his lungs before submerging (called lung packing) as when blood shift which over-oxygenated his blood temporarily, allowing him to function for longer without air.
Over the years, various intrepid freedivers have pushed the limited of human ability with Enzo Majorca surpassing a depth of 100m, all without breathing in 1988.
Incredibly, Enzo’s breathing dropped from 60 beats per minute to just 27 bpm during his dive, something which at the time blew scientists away.
Today, the record is held by Herbert Nitsh, named ‘the Deepest Man on Earth’. Holding 33 world records, Nitsch can hold his breath for a staggering 9 minutes.
The Limits of Freediving
Chances are, there are still new extremes to be found in freediving, with different forms of the sport being developed and created. No limits Freediving allows divers to use weights to pull themselves down, combined with buoyancy control devices (BCDs) to bring them back to the surface. The stress this puts on the human body is staggering
The National Geographic talking to James Nestor.
So, is freediving a sport for you? For us normal humans, I’d recommend sticking to your snorkel, for the modern extreme among us…try freediving a try.