Competitive Freediving: Freediving Disciplines And Records

What are the different freediving disciplines? How deep can you dive? What is the world record for freediving? The answers are here...

Freediving is among the most challenging extreme sports. Once the activity of sponge and pearl divers in ancient cultures, freediving is now a registered competitive sport, recognised internationally and practiced all over the globe.

Freedivers compete in depth of dives and longest breath hold, depending on the discipline, in competitions and record attempts that are quickly becoming more monitored by official bodies such as AIDA International

Across all disciplines, the deepest dive ever recorded officially is held by Goran Čolak in 2014, who reached 281m on a Dynamic Apnea dive in 2014. Natalia Molchanova holds the deepest dive by a woman, reaching 182m on a Dynamic Apnea dive in 2013.

While these records are the most referenced and well known, there are many other record holders within freediving, over the many different disciplines.

Static Apnea is just one of the freediving records competed for each year. Photo; iStock

Freediving Competitions

The eight different disciplines in which freedivers compete require different training and hold different rules and qualifiers. While some freedivers hold records over more than one discipline, most disciplines have different specialist freedivers holding the records.

The different rules and equipment for each discipline are administered and monitored by AIDA, through an online system,

No Limit (NLT)

The ultimate competitive depth diving. The freediver uses a ballast weight to descend as far as they can, before ascending with the use of a balloon and a diving vest with inflatable compartments.

Variable Weight (VWT)

The first of the depth disciplines to use a sled to go down in the water. The freediver still uses a ballast weight to descend and can pull on the rope to ascend, if they prefer. Old sleds descended head fist, however newer sleds descend feet first.

Constant Weight (CWT)

Constant weight is the most common sportive depth discipline of freediving and one of the three disciplines considered for the international competitions by team, along with Static apnea and Dynamic with fins. The freediver descends and ascends using his fins and arms, almost without any pulling on the rope and without changing his ballast.

Constant Weight Without Fins (CNF)

The freediver descends and ascends under water using only his own muscle strength, without the use of propulsion equipment and without pulling on the rope.

Constant weight without fins is the most difficult sportive depth discipline, as it contains no materials to aid descent and needs perfect coordination between movements, equalization, technique and buoyancy.

Free Immersion (FIM)

The freediver dives under water, by pulling on the rope during descent and ascent.

Performances could be done the head first during the descent, or the feet first, or even a mix of the two, depending on equalization facilities of each freedivers.

Dynamic With Fins (DYN)

This discipline focuses on distance, with the freediver travelling in a horizontal position under water, using only fins or a monofin and swimming movements with the arms. The performances must occur in pools with a minimum length of 25 meters to count towards official records.

Dynamic Without Fins (DNF)

As above without the aid of fins, this discipline focuses the most on technique.

Static Apnea (STA)

The only discipline concentrating only on the duration of breath hold alone. The freediver holds their breath in a static position with their head or whole body immersed in the water. Performances can be done in both pool or open water.

Judging rules

While different competitions and performances have their own set of rules, there are a few universal rules over all different types of competitive freediving, based around the safety of the diver.

Within 15 seconds of surfacing from a dive, all divers have to remove face equipment, make an ok hand sign and give a verbal sign that they are ok, for the dive to be counted.

After the surfacing post-blackout mechanical movements or fainting is not allowed. If a competitor is either dropping or nodding the head repeatedly and losing and regaining consciousness for short moments over and over again, the dive will be disqualified.

Freediving records can be made in both open ocean and controlled environments. Photo: iStock

Male And Female World Record Holders


No Limit (NLT)

Male- 214 m
Name: Herbert NITSCH (AUT)
Date: 2007-06-14
Place: Spetses, Greece
Female- 160 m
Name: Tanya STREETER (USA)
Date: 2002-08-17
Place: Turks & Caicos


Constant Weight (CWT)

Male- 128 m
Name: Alexey MOLCHANOV (RUS)
Date: 2013-09-19
Place: Kalamata, Greece
Female- 101 m
Name: Natalia MOLCHANOVA (RUS)
Date: 2011-09-23
Place: Kalamata, Greece


Variable Weight (VWT)

Male- 145 m
Name: William WINRAM (CAN)
Date: 2013-09-03
Place: Sharm el Sheik, Egypt
Female- 130 m 
Name: Nanja Van Den Broek (NLD)
Date: 2015-10-18
Place: Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt


Free Immersion (FIM)

Male- 121 m
Name: William TRUBRIDGE (NZL)
Date: 2011-04-10
Place: Long Island, Bahamas
Female- 91 m
Name: Natalia MOLCHANOVA (RUS)
Date: 2013-09-21
Place: Kalamata, Greece


Constant Weight Without Fins (CNF)

Male- 101 m
Name: William TRUBRIDGE (NZL)
Date: 2010-12-16
Place: Long Island, Bahamas
Female- 71 m
Name: Natalia MOLCHANOVA (RUS)
Date: 2015-05-13
Place: Dahab, Egypt


Dynamic Without Fins (DNF)

Male- 226 m
Name: Mateusz MALINA (POL)
Date: 2014-11-09
Place: Brno, Czech Republic
Female- 182 m
Name: Natalia MOLCHANOVA (RUS)
Date: 2013-06-27
Place: Belgrade, Serbia


Dynamic With Fins (DYN)

Male- 281 m
Name: Goran ČOLAK (CRO)
Date: 2013-06-28
Place: Belgrade, Serbia
Female- 237 m
Name: Natalia MOLCHANOVA (RUS)
Date: 2014-09-26
Place: Sardinia, Italy


Static Apnea (STA)

Male- 11 min 35 sec
Name: Stéphane MIFSUD (FRA)
Date: 2009-06-08
Place: Hyères, France
Female- 9 min 02 sec
Name: Natalia MOLCHANOVA (RUS)
Date: 2013-06-29
Place: Belgrade, Serbia


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