Freediving - General Information

What is freediving?

Picture Credit: Daan Verhoeven

Freediving is a form of underwater diving that does not involve the use of scuba gear or other external breathing devices, but rather relies on a diver's ability to hold his or her breath until resurfacing. Examples include breath-hold spear fishing, freedive photography, apnea competitions, and to some degree, snorkeling. The activity that garners the most public attention is the extreme sport of competitive apnea in which competitors attempt to attain great depths, times, or distances on a single breath.


Picture Credit: Daan Verhoeven

Competitive freediving

Competitive freediving is currently governed by the world association AIDA International (International Association for Development of Apnea) and the British Feediving Association is the UK representative of AIDA. Most types of competitive freediving have in common that it is an individual sport based on the best individual achievement. An exception to this rule is the bi-annual World Championship for Teams, held by AIDA, where the combined score of the team members makes up the team's total points. There are currently eight disciplines used by official governing body and all disciplines can be done by both men and women. The disciplines of AIDA can be done both in competition and as a record attempt, with the exception of Variable Weight and No limits, which are both done solely as record attempts.The following official disciplines are recognized by AIDA:

Pool disciplines

  • Static Apnea is timed breath holding and is usually attempted in a pool.
  • Dynamic Apnea With Fins- This is underwater swimming in a pool for distance. For this discipline the athlete can choose whether to use bi-fins or the monofin.
  • Dynamic Apnea Without Fins- This is underwater swimming in a pool for distance without any swimming aids like fins.
  • Depth disciplines
    For all AIDA disciplines, the depth the athlete will attempt is announced before the dive. This is accepted practice for both competitions and record attempts.
  • Constant Weight Apnea. The athlete has to dive to the depth following a guide line that he or she is not allowed to actively use during the dive. The ‘Constant Weight’ refers to the fact that the athlete is not allowed to drop any diving weights during the dive. Both bi-fins and monofin can be used during this discipline.
  • Constant Weight Apnea Without Fins follows the identical rules as Constant Weight, except no swimming aids such as fins are allowed. This discipline is the youngest discipline within competitive freediving and is recognised by AIDA International since 2003.
  • Free Immersion Apnea is a discipline in which the athlete uses the vertical guide rope to pull him or herself down to depth and back to the surface while the athlete is still not allowed to release weights.
  • Variable Weight Apnea is a record discipline that uses a weighted sled for descent. Athletes return to the surface by pulling themselves up along a line or swimming while using their fins.
  • No-Limits Apnea is a record discipline that allows the athlete to use any means of breath-hold diving to depth and return to the surface as long as a guideline is used to measure the distance. Most divers use a weighted sled to dive down and use an inflatable bag to return to the surface.
  • World Championships, nice, France, 2012

    Picture Credit: Daan Verhoeven

    Freediving is a potentially dangerous activity. This website exists only to provide general information about freediving and does not constitute any form of instruction. Individuals interested in freediving are strongly encouraged to undertake a course with a qualified instructor and to never freedive alone. The BFA accepts no liability for injury or death resulting from the use of information on this website.