What Is Freediving? 

What Is Freediving?

Freediving is an awesome sport, where you submerge into great depths with one single breath. This is the type of Freediving you are most likely thinking about, although it can be performed vertically, horizontally and even stationary!

Have you ever been snorkelling and tried to dive down to look at the corals below? As you get deeper, it becomes more difficult to hold your breath! 

Despite only having one breath, there are Freedivers who have reached some incredible depths and distances!

So what actually is Freediving? How does it work? In this article, we will discuss:

  • What Is Freediving?
  • Freediving Organisations
  • Difference Between Freediving and Snorkelling
  • Types of Freediving

What Is Freediving?

Freediving is the act of diving within a body of water, without using any breathing apparatus!

This sport requires a lot of Discipline, focusing your mind on the surface. Filling your lungs, you can use one breath to achieve time and depth underwater. 

Not only does this sport require physical and mental Discipline, but each type of Freediving is also known as a ‘Discipline’. There are many different Disciplines, requiring breathing techniques, impressive breath-holds and specific equipment. For example, a low-volume mask!

Free diver swimming over coral

This physically and mentally challenging sport is becoming increasingly popular!

There are numerous reasons why people love Freediving, such as recreational sports, underwater photography and even spearfishing. 

Recreational Freediving is the perfect way to get up close and personal with some of your favourite marine life! While Scuba Diving, bubbles are created with every breath. Sometimes, this can scare away timid and shy marine life!

While Freediving, no bubbles are created and you become at one with the fish! Just like Jacques Cousteau said: “The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.”

Spearfishing with Scuba equipment creates an unfair advantage for the prey, therefore is frowned upon and strictly reserved for Freediving. While Spearfishing with one breath, you become equal with your prey, which some people feel is more exciting and challenging.

Being a Sport, there are World Championships held for Freediving! Currently, Herbert Nitch is the World Champion, diving the deepest No Limits Free dive in the world- 253m/830ft! That is an astounding achievement!

Freediving Organisations

Just like most sports, Freediving has specific Organisations, in which Freediving is practised and certain rules are followed. A few Organisations include AIDA, British Freediving Association and USA Freediving Federation.

One of the most famous Organisations is AIDA International. This Organisation was founded in 1992, organising global competitions and ensuring Freediving is a safe sport. 

Freediving Associations and Federations are found all over the world, most of which are members of AIDA.

For example, in the UK, The British Freediving Association is the UK Governing body within AIDA. In America, it is The USA Freediving Federation

What Is The Difference Between Freediving and Scuba Diving?

Freediving and Scuba diving are very different sports. The only similarities between both sports are a mask, a snorkel and a pair of fins. One of many differences is that Scuba has a constant air supply from a tank, whereas Freediving relies on one breath.

Scuba diving relies on a constant air supply, allowing you to remain underwater for long periods of time. SCUBA is an acronym, which stands for Self-contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. 

While Scuba Diving, you are staying in a world you are not made for, for prolonged periods of time. Sometimes, this can make you feel like a stranger or an imposter in the underwater world. 

Freediving, however, relies on one breath only!

With special Freediving training, a singular breath can allow you to dive deeper and longer.

Holding your breath ensures you only stay for as long as you physically can, which can challenge your limits and make you feel at one with the ocean.

What Is The Difference Between Freediving and Snorkelling?

Snorkelling allows you to continuously breathe on the surface, with occasional dives down while holding your breath. Freediving however includes breathing exercises, in an attempt to maximise your time and depth underwater. 

Snorkelling and Freediving may seem similar, as they use very similar equipment. However, Freediving is a completely different ball game.

Freediving depth and time can be magnified through specialist training!

With snorkelling, anyone can grab a pair of fins, a snorkel and a mask and head out from the beach! Although Freediving can be considered a safe sport, proper training is required to reduce the likeliness of potential risks!

Freediver swimming over a coral reef

Types of Freediving

There are many different types of Freediving, both Recreational and Competitive. Some examples include:

  • Constant Weight Freediving
  • Free Immersion Freediving
  • No Limits Freediving
  • Static Apnea
  • Dynamic Apnea

Freediving Disciplines can take place within either the open ocean or a confined pool!

Recreational exploratory Freediving is the perfect way to explore the underwater world! Competitive Freedivers, with training, can reach even the same depths as recreational Scuba Divers!

Some Freediving types can be performed statically and dynamically in pools, while others involve a dive line, diving vertically into the depths of the ocean! This is known as Line Diving, which can be used for training purposes, in order to embark on a journey to great depths!

First, let us have a look at Ocean Disciplines. 

Ocean Disciplines

Constant Weight Freediving 

The Freediver may or may not have weight, but this remains constant and their strength alone powers their vertical descent and ascent. This is the Freediving you are most likely to think of when you picture a Freediver submerging into the deep depths of the ocean.

Naturally, Humans are slightly buoyant. This means we can float on the surface. Most Freedivers, therefore, have small weights spaced out along a weight belt. This is used to help divers become less positively buoyant, making it easier to sink down.

However, as they descend, pressure increases and Freedivers become more negatively buoyant, causing the ascent to require more strength. 

Constant Weight Freediving is increasing in popularity. Freedivers submerge down alongside a dive line, which can only be touched at the bottom. Once at the bottom, the dive line can be pulled, aiding in the Freediver’s ascent back to the surface.

Freedivers who take part in this Discipline are most likely to be aiming for greater depths on one breath, striving to achieve new personal goals!

Constant Weight Freediving can be a great way to train recreationally and competitively. Once you can comfortably reach depth and remain for extended periods, you can enjoy the scenery and even explore coral reefs!

Continue reading to learn about another type of Ocean Freediving!

Free Immersion Freediving (FIM)

Free Immersion Freedivers do not wear fins but pull themselves down along a dive line. This Discipline is usually for training or a warm-up, to check ear equalisation and prepare their body for depth.

Warming up using this Discipline is a great way to prepare your body while conserving energy in your legs! Great comfort is also found in knowing you are only going as deep as you pull yourself.

Training with FIM can help build your comfort level, allowing you to push yourself deeper and deeper!

Have you ever seen pictures or videos of a diver sinking down along a rope into deep depths of the blue? Take a look below for an awesome Freediving picture!

Freediver pulling themselves down a dive line

No Limits Freediving 

No Limits Freediving involves additional weight causing you to sink down to the deepest possible depth. Once the limit is reached, a buoyancy device is used to return the Freediver to the surface. 

This Discipline is the deepest and by far the most dangerous. 

Fun Fact! Originally, it was up to the diver to submerge with a tank, and then fill a lift bag at the bottom to return to the surface.

However, this was proven too risky due to the effects of Nitrogen Narcosis! To remove such risks, this has been replaced with buoyancy devices that do not require air or rely on the diver to ascend!

Many of the deepest dives in the world have been achieved during No limit Freedives!

Pool Disciplines

Static Apnea

Static Apnea is held in a pool, where the diver lays on the surface completely still, holding their breath. This Discipline is very unlike the others, as it does not involve any movement!

This Discipline may seem the easiest, as your body is not compressed under the depths of the ocean. However, it is actually one of the most difficult. 

While laying completely still, you have no actions or movement to distract you from the fact you’re simply holding your breath… As Carbon Dioxide starts to build within you, you begin to feel that prickly urge to take a deep breath.

That is your body’s natural mechanism to ensure we keep our internal Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen levels normal. 

With the surface only millimetres away, this Discipline is the easiest to give up… therefore requires the most control. 

Static Apnea has many advantages, making it great practice. For example, it is not weather dependent, therefore can be practised at any time of year!

Dynamic Apnea

Dynamic Apnea is swimming horizontally across a swimming pool. This Discipline is also quite different to Ocean Disciplines. Firstly, like Static Apnea, it is held in a pool! Secondly, performance is based upon the underwater horizontal distance, in comparison to vertical depth. 

Some Freedivers struggle with equalising, making it difficult to participate in Deep Ocean Disciplines. During Dynamic Apnea, the Freediver stays at the same depth, just travelling distances across a pool.

Dynamic Apnea is therefore a perfect Discipline for such Freedivers to continue to practice this sport, without as much physical pressure exerted on their bodies. 

Similar to Constant weight Freediving, Dynamic Apnea can be performed with or without fins. It’s up to the Freediver and the type of sport they want to perform!

Don’t Forget Your Dive Insurance!

Before you go out on any dive trip or holiday, it is essential to make sure you have insurance that covers you if something goes wrong. Check out our dive insurance article for more information.

Or go straight to these dive insurance company websites:


Diver Alert Network (DAN)

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Final Thoughts

Freediving is an exciting sport, which physically and mentally pushes you to the limit. With numerous Disciplines, Freedivers can find a type of Freediving which is perfect for them!

Now that you know a little more about Freediving, do you think you will give it a try?

Trying something new is incredibly exciting! Go for it!

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Bethany Nyquist

Bethany is a writer, an Environmental Scientist and Dive Master, exploring the underwater world. Practising Underwater Photography, Bethany aims to raise awareness for and help protect marine life.

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