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.
Men’s world record: Alexey Molchanov (125m)
Women’s world record: Sayuri Kinoshita (97m)
Constant Weight with Fins (CWT)
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!
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.
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Written by Jereme Lane