Apnea Diving: What Is It?

Apnea diving, known by several other names including free diving, breath hold diving, and skin diving, spans a wide range of competitive and recreational sports which focus on endurance swimming and diving while holding one's breath. In the competitive realm, apnea diving records are set in terms of accomplishments made during a single breath hold. What those specific accomplishments are and the permissible methods of achieving them change within each particular discipline of apnea diving, but they generally revolve around the following metrics: time underwater, distance swam and depth achieved.

Recreational Apnea Diving

Apnea diving has been practiced since as early as 5,400 BC by cultures all across the globe. Hunting, shellfish gathering, plant life harvesting, pearl collecting, as well as military applications such as recovering resources from sunken ships and sabotaging enemy vessels were all motives among early divers.

Just like any other sport, apnea diving is practiced outside of the competitive realm by many enthusiasts. Also like other sports, each person's personal abilities are defined by their general health, their level of physical conditioning to the specific demands of the sport, and their technique.

Recreational apnea diving is a challenging and fulfilling way to explore stunning undersea ecosystems, develop a healthy cardiopulmonary system, improve athletic performance, and push personal limits. When practiced responsibly it is a safe, low cost sport that yields exciting results and unlocks a whole new world of exploration.

Competitive Apnea Diving

Competitive apnea diving was born in the middle of the twentieth century when Ralmondo Bucher, an Italian spear fisherman and fighter pilot, was recorded achieving a breath hold dive to 30 meters. Some forty years later following a drastic climb in the popularity of the sport and ever increasing depth records, the International Association for the Development of Freediving, or AIDA, was established.

AIDA defines the eight specific disciplines of apnea diving as well as oversees the recognition of new records and organizes official competitions. The eight official disciplines of apnea diving are below.

Constant Weight Without Fins (CNF)

The diver follows an anchored rope aiming to achieve the greatest depth possible and return to the surface with no propulsion equipment and without touching the rope.

Constant Weight (CWT)

The diver follows an anchored rope aiming to achieve the greatest depth possible and return with the use of fins or a mono-fin. The diver may hold onto the rope once to stop descending and turn around.

Dynamic Without Fins (DNF)

The diver aims to achieve the longest horizontal distance possible without the use of fins or other propulsion equipment.

Dynamic With Fins (DYN)

The diver aims to achieve the longest horizontal distance possible with the use of fins or a mono-fin.

Static Apnea (STA)

The diver attempts to hold their breath for the longest possible time either on or beneath the surface of the water with both their mouth and nose submerged at a minimum.

Free Immersion (FIM)

The diver follows an anchored rope aiming to achieve the greatest depth possible and return to the surface with no propulsion equipment. The diver may use the rope to assist their descent and ascent.

Variable Weight (VWT)

The diver follows an anchored rope using a weight or sled device to the greatest depth possible and ascends using only their own strength either by swimming or by pulling themselves up with the rope.

No Limit (NLT)

The diver descends using weights to the greatest depth possible and ascends using whatever method they choose including balloons, inflatable vests and the like.