One of the most common questions from newcomers to the sport is the question of freediving records. “Who is the deepest freediver in the world?” is a very common question and the answer can be quite complicated. Freediving has some interesting and sometimes confusing terms and rules surrounding the different ‘disciplines’ or competition types. Free immersion, constant weight, dynamic, static… fancy words but what the hell do they actually mean?
We’re not exactly sure who to thank for our confusing freediving terms but whoever took the simple art of diving on one breath and turned it into the linguistic dog’s breakfast that it’s become has got some explaining to do!
Anyway, we’ve decided to make it nice and simple for you and explain the most common disciplines you’re likely to encounter as an everyday freediver, and what the freediving record is for each one.
Disclaimer: Apneista advises that freediving is a holistic spiritual experience involving body and mind and thus records and personal bests (PBs) are not important to the enjoyment of the sport.
FREEDIVING RECORDS FOR POOL DISCIPLINES
Let’s start with the easiest ones. The definition of the word ‘dynamic – and its variations from other languages – essentially means, pertaining to force producing motion (think the opposite of ‘static’). And, apnea means, a temporary cessation of breathing, or simply, holding ones breath underwater.
So, complicated linguistics aside, Dynamic Apnea, or simply ‘dynamic’, is the name that we give in freediving to the discipline of swimming underwater in the pool on one breath measured in horizontal distance.
Remember growing up when you and your siblings used to hold highly-competitive tournaments to see who could do the most laps of the backyard pool on one breath? Well you probably didn’t know it at the time, but you were actually competing in a Dynamic freediving competition.
There are two types of Dynamic disciplines; with fins and without.
Dynamic with fins (DYN)
Men’s world record: Mateusz Malina & Giorgos Panagiotakis (300m)
Women’s world record: Magdalena Solich (243m)
Dynamic no fins (DNF)
Men’s world record: Mateusz Malina (244m)
Women’s world record: Magdalena Solich (191m)
Static Apnea (STA)
And as you’ve probably worked out by now, Static apnea, or just ‘static’, is the discipline of in-water breath hold without moving. Different to all the other freediving disciplines in that it doesn’t require any diving or swimming at all, the contestants simply float whilst holding their breath for as long as they possibly can. Of all the disciplines static has a reputation as being very challenging for the mind because you basically hold your breath while carbon dioxide wreaks havoc on your brain as your mind begs you to take a breath. Oh, and it’s also not much of a spectator’s sport as you’ll see in the 10 minute video below but there is a certain level of epic, jaw-dropping respect for those in the top echelons of static.
Men’s world record: Stéphane Mifsud (11:35)
Women’s world record: Natalia Molchanova (9:02)
Note: Longer breath holds have occurred outside official freedive competitions, however these include the use of techniques that aren’t allowed in freedive competitions. The Guinness book of records longest single voluntary breath hold is 24 mins and 3 seconds.
FREEDIVING RECORDS FOR OPEN WATER DISCIPLINES
Free Immersion (FIM)
Free immersion is the discipline that involves a diver descending a vertical line (rope with a bottom weight to hold it vertical) upside down using only one’s hands to propel oneself down the line to the end and then back up again. If you’ve ever seen a freediver with their hands on a rope heading down head first, then you have witnessed free immersion.
Free Immersion is considered by some to be the least pure of the depth disciplines because it provides unnatural assistance however, it’s because of the assistance provided by way of the rope pull movement that free immersion is – and always will be – a popular way to learn how to freedive as it simplifies the process of achieving depth.
Image: Daan Verhoeven (@daanverhoevenfreediver)
Men’s world record: Alexey Molchanov (125m)
Women’s world record: Sayuri Kinoshita (97m)
Constant Weight with Fins (CWT)
Image: Trista Fontana (@underwater_explorer)
Constant weight with fins or just ‘constant weight’ is a dive straight up and down the line unassisted by anything other than fins (bifins or a monofin). The diver is allowed one pull of the line at the bottom before they begin their ascent.
Men’s world record: Alexey Molchanov (130m)
Women’s world record: Alessia Zecchini (107m)
Constant Weight No Fins (CNF)
As you can probably gather, constant weight no fins, or just ‘no fins’ is the discipline that many consider to be the purest of them all. Using… well, no fins, the diver makes his way down and then up the line again without the assistance of a mermaid’s tail or a set of duck’s feet.
Divers use a special type of swimming technique imaginatively known as ‘no fins’ (yes the same as the ‘no fins’ in the pool but with a minor navigational modification) which is a combination of sweeping the arms and displacing water to pull oneself down through the water, combined with leg movements that somewhat resembles a frog’s kick. No fins relies on impeccable technique to maximise the distance travelled through the water to energy used and this is why it is considered to be the most pure of the disciplines.
Legend has it that there is a beautiful mermaid waiting for any man that breaks the 100m no fins barrier. William Trubridge did that in 2016 but refused to answer our deeply intimate questions about the encounter. We will get the details out of him at Deep Week in November 2019!
Image: Trista Fontana (@underwater_explorer)
Men’s world record: William Trubridge (102m)
Women’s world record: Alessia Zecchini (73m)
Now we’re getting into the fancy disciplines where depth junkies use all sorts of techniques to get themselves as deep as possible. Variable weight basically means that the diver can change his/her weight during the dive. This equates to using some sort of weight to pull the contestant down to a set depth before they make their own way back up to the surface.
This discipline was made famous by mafia families disposing of victim’s bodies using concrete blocks to drag the bodies down to the sea floor in deep water but has since been refined by freedivers to release the weight and ascend to the surface to breath again and continue with everyday life above water.
Men’s world record: Stavros Kastrinakis (146m)
Women’s world record: Nanja van der Broek (130m)
And last but certainly not least is the ‘no limits’ discipline. As the name implies, there aren’t too many rules for this one and if you can go down deeper than anyone else and come back up again, they’ll hang a medal on you when you wake up. Actually, there’s no medals for no limits anymore because AIDA doesn’t want anything to do with it, but you will have the honour of being the answer to a pub quiz question for centuries to come… or until somebody crazier than you comes along.
No talk of crazy and the no limits discipline would be complete without a mention for Herbert Nitsch who has broken 33 world records in his career and is the current ‘deepest man on earth’ at 253m.
In 2012 Herbert descended very rapidly on a modified underwater Jamaican bob sled and ascended using an air balloon. Unfortunately, during this record-breaking dive he had an ‘unplanned nap’ on the way up due to nitrogen narcosis and didn’t complete his safety stop after the rescue divers feared for his safety and brought him up early. This caused him to suffer decompression sickness resulting in several brain strokes.
Herbert was told he would never walk again but has defied doctors and made an incredible recovery after heavy rehabilitation. He still suffers balance and coordination issues on land however, he does not experience those issues underwater.
World record: Herbert Nitsch (253m)
*Note: The records used here are from the International Association for the Development of Apnea (AIDA) which tracks and keeps records in the most commonly used freediving disciplines mentioned above.
For more information on freediving courses please get in touch.
Written by Jereme Lane
When divers think of Amed, they think of wrecks including of course the world famous Liberty wreck. Regardless of whether you’re a freediver or a scuba diver, there’s a variety of wrecks to suit your experience and skill level situated relatively close to the town of Amed. When you combine the quality of wreck diving on offer with the mild dry season climate and amazing visibility at this time of year, it’s easy to see why Amed is starting to attract more and more international visitors. So, with this in mind we’ve put together a wreck diving guide to help you plan your wreck diving adventure in Amed!
LIBERTY WRECK – Tulamben (20 minutes from Amed)
Undoubtedly, the USAT (United States Army Transport) Liberty is the most famous of Amed’s four wrecks and is world famous in wreck diving circles. The story of the Liberty goes that in January 1942 the Liberty was en route from Australia to the Philippines with cargo when it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine near Bali. Taking on water and unable to get all the way to Singaraja, the ship was beached in Tulamben so that the cargo could be salvaged.
The ship then sat on the beach at Tulamben for a couple of decades before nearby volcano Mount Agung erupted in 1963 and the resulting tremors slid the Liberty down into the water where it currently resides on the sand 100 metres or so from shore.
With the top of the ship being around four metres deep (tide depending) and the bottom in over 30 metres, a large part of the Liberty’s attraction is that it is open to everyone from beginners through to advanced divers. While it can get crowded during high season, particularly with scuba divers, the hull is 125 metres long so there is plenty of ship to explore.
After the beaching in WW2 the ship was stripped of anything of any value over the next few years and so while the hull and interior are quite bare of actual ship parts, this makes it very easy and safe to dive without worrying too much about banging your head on a doorway or stairwell.
Oh, and of course no talk of wreck diving is complete without a swimthrough or two and the Liberty has plenty at various depths, meaning the Liberty is probably your safest bet if you’re looking for 100 likes on Insta. It’s also a load of fun without the Gopro, and the biggest swimthrough in the cargo hold starts at about 10 metres with a massive opening making it perfect for level 1 and 2 freedivers. If you’ve got enough breath hold, stop and have a quick look around on your way through because there’s always a big snapper or two hanging out in there!
Artwork by Mike Vam de Vem, 2017
While any huge man-made piece of steel reef will be an attractant for fish life, it is no doubt thanks to the protected zone surrounding the Liberty that the fish life here rivals anywhere in Bali. You can find all the usual colourful reef species to this area however, it’s the sheer numbers of large demersal fish that makes the Liberty truly special, with plenty of diver-friendly snapper, groupers and parrot fish.
Early mornings are great for sighting the resident humphead parrot fish that habitually come in to school around the wreck, while those who aren’t afraid to stick their head in small holes and under ledges can often be rewarded with sightings of the large and sometimes timid groupers.
JAPANESE WRECK – Banyuning (15 minutes from Amed)
Image: Harry Webber
The Japanese wreck is the second most popular wreck in the area and at around 20m long is very small in comparison to the Liberty but, as the Japanese wreck afficionados will tell you, what it lacks in size it makes up for in beauty.
Nobody actually knows the reason the wreck is known as the Japanese wreck but the rumour that has the most credibility are that the term Java-nese was mistaken for Japa-nese.
The mystery doesn’t end with the history of the name either, as the actual purpose of the vessel is also cloudy. The wreck is lying on its side with much of the hull, deck and, well pretty much everything else, missing. It could be a fishing boat, a tug or even a small cargo ship but we’ll probably never know for sure.
Image: Harry Webber
Whatever the case the wreck has been there for a long time and wasn’t a mainstay of Amed diving until the road out to Lipah from Amed was upgraded from a goat track to a scooter track and eventually a half decent road by East Bali standards. Nowadays, there’s a carpark, a café and snorkel hire right on the beach next to the wreck. There’s also a few small hotels close by and some people like to stay at this end of East Bali because it’s the quietest part.
Just like the Liberty, a few decades of submerged existence has been very kind to the Japanese wreck’s aesthetics and the hull is covered in some of the most beautiful corals and sponges in the area making it a wreck diving favourite for the area. There’s also plenty of fish, shrimp, rays and other marine life to keep you entertained for a couple of hours.
From the beach, you simply swim out the 50 metres or so to the wreck which begins in a few metres of water making it suitable for all levels including snorkelers.
BOGA wreck – Kubu (30 mins from Amed)
Image: Heather Sutton (@hsexposures)
On the back of the success of the Liberty and Japanese wrecks in bringing tourism opportunities to the Amed area, in 2012 the Boga was sunk off Kubu beach to further cement Bali’s status in the wreck diving world. The Boga was a 40 metre long, 150-tonne Dutch cargo ship before being purchased by the owner of the Bali Relax Hotel and donated to the Karangasem Badung (regency).
In contrast to the Liberty and Japanese wrecks, the hull of the Boga is well and truly intact and provides a great contrast to the other wrecks with its, ‘not being completely decimated by time, torpedoes or seismic activity’ qualities.
The main issue with the Boga and the reason why it’s nowhere near as popular as its neighbouring wrecks is the depth. The Boga was originally placed in the ‘scuba-friendly’ 30-metre-deep range. That meant that the top of the ship was around 13-15 metres deep and the bottom sat around 30-32. However, the Boga apparently didn’t want to sit in that spot and eventually the hull slid and wiggled its way down to sit at 40m, a good challenge for the freedivers.
Image: Heather Sutton (@hsexposures)
The top now sits around 18 metres and when you add in the high current usually experienced in the area this makes it strictly an experienced wreck diving location for both freedivers and scuba divers.
Highlights of the ship include a Volkswagon convertible (yep really), a propeller and a steering wheel which are all very instagrammable for those who can get down to them. There’s also a swimthrough around 28m but often the scuba divers won’t go inside the ship because the current is too strong so freediving must be done with even further care.
There isn’t anywhere near the level of marine life as the nearby Liberty but the Boga can boast that the hull is entirely in tact. So while it doesn’t beat the Liberty at supporting a living reef, it does beat the Liberty at being an actual boat and this has some upsides too!
Amed’s fourth and newest wreck
Image: Glenda Duarte (@glendarama)
Now I’m sure there’s a few people reading this that are thinking to themselves, “that’s it, there’s only three wrecks in Amed. What are they talking about, four wrecks?”
Well ladies and gentlemen, Amed now officially has its fourth wreck! Yes that’s right, and this one is right in the heart of Amed! Click here to read more.
Written by Jereme Lane
Congratulations! you passed your level 1 freediving course; you are now obsessed with freediving and can’t wait to improve your technique.
First step is freediving equipment and it’s time to buy your first pair of freediving fins, woohoo!
FREEDIVING FINS VS SNORKELING FINS
You might order online a pair of lovely long stiff plastic fins, that a nice chap on facebook recommended. No idea if they will fit, but you buy some socks and fin straps just in case the foot pocket is not quite right.
Familiar story for all the dozens of freedivers I know; so hang on, don’t go too mad now. I wish I knew then what I know now
Working full time as a freedive instructor for the past 2 years, sometimes we can clock up to 80 dives per day, chasing students up and down the line.
That is a whole lot of finning, somedays my ankles scream at me.
When I take my fins off at the waters edge, I crouch down into dorsi flexsion, ouch!
My left achilles was tight after every session. Whilst finning at the surface, my right knee cap constantly clicked and don’t even get me started on my tender calf muscles from hours of finning. If my limbs could talk, they would only manage a tear.
FREEDIVING’S EFFECT ON THE BODY
From teaching and studying pilates, I can’t help but worry about the knock on affect of the wear and tear of my feet, will I ruin my knees and hips as I get older?
So I investigate my body and start focusing more on mobility and strengthening for my ankles and feet, also carefully addressing my leg alignment and the execution of my kicking. My kicking looks good, but my god the burn on deep dives in my legs and feet.
Here is a little fin history: only when I passed my instructor course, did I allow my self to replace my plastic Cressi long fins (those lovely long stiff plastic fins you were considering) with brand spanking new carbon fins. But the blades were too stiff and the Pathos foot pocket was not designed for the lady foot, I had to wear socks and the foot pocket moved around as I finned, I think I even lost a toe nail at one point too.
This was the start of my problems, but those fins cost big bucks and I was determined get my money’s worth. Let’s be honest, no one gets into freedive instructing for the money.
Next, I happened upon a “donated” a pair of carbon fins for free, that sort of fit, I decided to wear them until they die, which they did. With the next few sets of fins; the foot pockets were either too tight, too loose or the blade was far too stiff.
I was resigned to the fact that I will only use these sorts of fins for safetying and teaching, so its ok, I figured `I would just continue working on my foot and leg exercises to compensate, maybe its just my body getting older?!
ALEXEY MOLCHONOV: WORLD RECORD HOLDER
Fast forward to Alexey Molchonov coming to Apneista last April with the deep week training camp, this man is full- time deepest freediver in the world/part-time travelling salesman. It seems like everyone is sporting his CS1 custom foot pocket fins.
The custom foot pocket intrigues me, made to measure, I can’t stop thinking about it.
I bite the bullet and I spend the most money I ‘ve ever spent on freediving equipment, the best part of €500.
My new fins arrive after 6 weeks, ooohhh game changer. My right knee, now does not click when surface swimming. The foot pockets with the support arch and open heel are allowing for better foot and leg alignment. My fins do not touch each other through the midline, which I thought was due to a my knees rolling in slightly.
The blades are soft and the fin feels like an extension of my foot, “Mermaid slippers” my student called them. My leg extension feels long and parallel, there is no lactic acid build up in my legs after deep dives, most of all, my ankles do not ache!! I actually enjoyed a deep dive with these fins, who would believe it, and now I’m looking forward to doing more training sessions too.
In summary; you must look after your feet, to look after the rest of your body upwards, its all connected. If you dive a lot or participate in any other sports to that matter and something hurts, then your body is telling you something, investigate it before it becomes chronic.
I’m not suggesting only buy Molchanovs, there are many good models out now, but our bodies are not cookie cutter, try everything then ask for more.
But most importantly; I am not getting older, it was just my poorly fitting fins!
If you want to learn more about how to incorporate Pilates to improve your freediving technique and movement patterns contact Apneista for details about freediving courses.
Freediving & Pilates instructor