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Scuba diving is a very popular sport throughout the world.  Nevertheless, it is still classed as an extreme sport, and specific health and travel insurance needs to be taken out if you do plan to take part in scuba diving whilst abroad.  Some people however don’t think the sport is extreme enough and so are constantly searching for new ways to make the sport more exciting. This is where free diving comes in.

What is Free Diving?

Free diving basically means diving without any scuba equipment.  The whole aim is to dive for as deep or as long as possible on a single breath.  There is some disagreement between scuba divers as to why free diving exists.  Some people believe that it is purely designed for people of a competitive nature; whether this means they are competing against other people or their own records is insignificant. 

Others, on the other hand, believe that free diving is a non competitive sport and that the whole purpose of it is to achieve a specific state of mind.  For these people, going as shallow as an inch is good enough.  It is about using the right technique and the right weights rather than physical strength.

There is also an official definition of free diving which is “any aquatic activity that involves holding your breath underwater”.  Some examples of activities in water that would hence be a form of free diving include free dive photography, breath held spear fishing, apnea diving and synchronized swimming.

Are Snorkelers Free Divers?

Very often, snorkelers will take a breath and swim underwater to enjoy the scenery up close.  So does this qualify them as free divers?  According to free diving enthusiasts, it does not.  Free diving is about being at ease and relaxing under water and the point is to release yourself from stress and worry.  A snorkeler who takes a deep breath and goes underwater does this because he or she wants to see something or to enjoy the scenery, not to have any holistic or spiritual benefits.

You might want to read "a free divers point of view on free diving"

What Is Apnea Free Diving?

Apnea free diving is a competitive sport in which competitors fight it out to hold their breath for the longest amount of time.  There are a variety of different disciplines involved in the sport but the three most competitive elements include staying underwater for the longest length of time, travelling the furthest distance underwater and travelling to the deepest depth underwater.  Scuba diving equipment cannot be used in apnea free diving which is why it can be a really dangerous sport.

When most people think of free diving it is apnea free diving that comes to mind.  Problems arise when people who are not trained to take part in the sport do so and then find themselves with insufficient air reserves to get back to the surface.  Other problems centre around water and air pressure problems including burst ear drums and caisson’s disease.

The record, as it stands, for apnea free diving was set by Patrick Musimu.  He dove 687 feet on a single breath, staying under water for nearly three minutes.  Patrick Musimu free dives in what is known as the no limit category.  This category, according to Patrick Musimu himself, should not be considered by anybody and should never be added to any official sports.  Let’s discuss his dive in some more detail.

Patrick Musimu’s Unbelievable Dive

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In June of 2005, Patrick Musimu started practicing for the ultimate dive.  He dove six times, firstly getting to 100 metres, then 136, then 151, then 170, then 185 and finally going past the 200 metres mark.  Unsurprisingly, by the 30th of June, his body was completely exhausted after his dive to 209.6 metres.  This was the deepest recorded dive in history.  Two years later, however, his record was broken by Herbert Nitsch, who dove to 214 metres on the 14th of June 2007.

Musimu is the epiphany of all that has to do with free diving.  He often explains about what he thinks and feels during dives, explaining how his mind feels as though it is detached from his body.  He almost has an outer body experience, making his mind believe that there are no limits.  He describes free diving as an instrument and himself as the virtuoso.

If you want to give free diving a go, don’t worry about trying to achieve depths like Musimu or Nitsch.  Generally, spending 45 seconds under water and diving to about 30 feet is more than enough, and you can then also take a couple of photographs if you want.  Enjoy!

I guess we can come to the conclusion free diving or breath hold diving is an extreme sport thats needs serieus practice and training. As a scuba diver and a snorkeler on my surface intervals I tend to do so free snorkeling. My "record" is 45 seconds and a dept of 40ft.

Do you do any form of free diving? How long can you hold your breath? Let us know in the comments below

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Article written by Rutger Thole who is an avid scuba diver and loves to travel, dive and write about scuba diving. Based in Amsterdam he runs bookyourdive.com and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track.

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