What is free-diving?
Most of Earth’s surface is covered with water. Most living organisms live underwater. Since ancient times, men wanted to see what is hidden in the deep and tried to reveal the secrets of the underwater kingdom. Today, it is much easier to dive with a diving cylinder and swimfins and swim like a fish but in the remote past it was only possible by diving and holding one’s breath – as long as the organism permits. Underwater, except for lack of breath, one faces another hardship: pressure, that increases with depth. Despite the physical difficulties and the fear of the unknown, people used to dive for fishing or just for curiosity and went deeper and deeper.
There is one new discipline in underwater sports that is gaining more and more popularity – free-diving – breath-hold (apnea) diving without breathing apparatus. It is an extreme, individual sport whose only goal is the best personal achievement. Free-diving became popular in the 1970s and gradually received worldwide recognition owing to people like Jacques Mayol, Enzo Maiorca, Francisco Ferreras, William Trubridge, Umberto Pelizzari and many others. As in many other sports, women participate on an equal level with men and have impressive achievements. Some of the more famous names include: Audrey Mestre, Natalia Molchanova, Tanya Streeter. The two world associations – AIDA International and CMAS – organize competitions in this field. There are eight disciplines in competitive free-diving with men and women competing in them.
As of 2010, both women’s and men’s achievements are remarkable and even unbelievable: the world record in the discipline No Limits for men belongs to Herbert Nitsch – at the depth of 214 m, and for women, to Tanya Streeter – at the depth of 160 m. No less impressive is the human organism capability for holding one’s breath. The world record in the Static Apnea discipline for men belongs to Stéphane Mifsud who achieved 11 minutes 35 seconds and for women – to Natalia Molchanova – 8 minutes 23 seconds. Natalia holds six of the eight world records for women at present, in all eight free-diving disciplines. Free-diving is an extreme sport that takes men beyond the limits of the organism. Unlike many other sports, it is practiced over the age of 25 and some of the champions are even over 40 years old. In 2010, Herbert Nitsch was 40, while Natalia Molchanova was 48 years old.
Even when practiced just for fun, free-diving makes it possible for people to practice body control, both physically and mentally. Mastering the processes in the organism that take place underwater requires great, continuous effort of the will and strenuous trainings but the results bring genuine triumph.