What is freediving? Discover what is freediving in the first part of The Beginner’s Guide to Freediving. From static apnea to variable weight, discover what the different freediving disciplines are, and what you have to do to call yourself a freediver.

Freediving is breath hold diving, being in and under the water whilst holding ones breath. Today, when people ask ‘what is freediving’ most of them associate freediving with images of super humans plunging to the darkest depths of the ocean with only the air in their lungs, the power of their bodies and the will of their minds to keep them alive and bring them back. However every time you slip into water and hold your breath you are a freediver, exploring our world of water from the shallows to, occasionally the depths.

Read on for our guide to What is Freediving and Types of Freediving

What is Freediving? Is it Snorkelling?

Diving without an aqualung is often referred to as ‘skin diving’ or ‘snorkelling’. Both can use mask, snorkel and fins, but freediving will always involve a breath hold, no matter how deep you go. Humans first started freediving through necessity, for food, trade-able items or items lost overboard, however in more recent time, freediving has evolved into a recreational pastime, a way to take photos, catch food, and as a sport.

What is Freediving – Competitive Freediving

Competitive freediving has different disciplines to reflect the various ways that you can be in the water and hold your breath.  This came with the emergence of competitions involving teams, countries and many individuals. Back in the early part of this century there was a distinction between records done in salt and fresh water, although this has since been stopped.

In individual and team world championships, each diver will perform a constant weight dive with fins, a dynamic swim with fins and a static breath hold with points awarded for each discipline to arrive at a final combined score. Free immersion, constant weight no-fins and dynamic no-fins can also be competition disciplines, although they are usually stand alone events.

The most recognized disciplines are explained below, although many people often seek to invent new disciplines, whether for fun or competition.

What is Freediving – Types of Freediving

Let’s take a look at the different types of freediving now.  You’ll hear Freedivers talk in strange code when referring to diving to depth or in the pool with different equipment and here we’ll try to de-mystify it and discover what is freediving in terms of disciplines.

Open water depth disciplines

Constant Weight Freediving

Beginners guide to freediving what is freediving Misuzu Okamoto from Japan about to surface from a CWT dive. Photo by Daan Verhoeven

This can be done with fins (CWT) and without fins (CNF)

This is a depth discipline and a competition discipline. Seen by many as the purest form of freediving, the diver descends and ascends under their own power, the weight (or not) that they wear on their person remaining the same throughout the dive.

Constant weight with fins (CWT), along with static apnea, were the original two competition disciplines before Dynamic with Fins (DYN) was added. In the first international competitions, most people wore bi-fins with only a handful of people using the monofin. The monofin proved to be far more effective than bi-fins and now it is the monofin that all deep competitors use.


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Written by Emma Farrell

Emma Farrell is one of the world’s leading freediving instructors, teaching freediving since 2003. She is the author of the book ‘One Breath, a Reflection on Freediving’, has written courses that are taught worldwide, taught gold medal winning Olympic and Paralympic athletes, and has appeared numerous times on television teaching everyone from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to Ellie Simmonds how to freedive.

Read more about Emma here.

Learn more about Freediving

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This article first appeared on Deeper Blue.com