This is a basic explanation of free diving. If you have a better WU, then please post it and I'll be happy to step aside.


Free diving is quite simply diving underwater while holding ones breath. Free diving is different to SCUBA diving because SCUBA divers use an air tank. Almost everyone who has been swimming has "free dived" by simply diving to the bottom of the pool, or the beach, etc.

Many would think that free diving is an inferior form of diving compared to SCUBA diving, after all, what can a free diver do that a SCUBA diver can't? Actually, quiet a lot, a free diver can dive unencumbered, any time, time after time, and experience being underwater in a more natural manner. As a SCUBA diver myself, I can't say I particularly enjoy the experience, but many find it great.


Everyone who has held their breath knows that after a short period of time, your lungs begin to feel like they are on fire. This is not caused by the lack of oxygen, but the build up of carbon dioxide. Generally when you experience this sensation you still have plenty of oxygen in your lungs, which is were hyperventilating comes in. By hyperventilating you purge your lungs of most of the carbon dioxide that is always in them. Thus allowing you to fill your lungs with more oxygen and preventing the breath reflex from coming in too soon.

Warning: Over hyperventilating can have the opposite effect and can even cause you to loose consciousness and can lead to drowning and death.

Competition free diving

There are two main categories of competition free diving; variable ballast and constant ballast.

Constant ballast

In this category there are 3 subcategories. Unassisted, line assisted, and equipment assisted.
  • Unassisted refers to the free diver diving while under his/her own power without using an guide lines or propulsion devices.
  • Line assisted refers to the free diver diving using a static vertical line to pull him/herself down to the target depth and up to the surface. No other propulsion device is allowed.
  • Equipment assisted refers to the free diver using self powered propulsion device (eg fins).

    Variable ballast

    This category is broken up into 2 subcategories: Limited and Unlimited.

  • Limited refers to the diver using one a guided ballast device for the decent. The diver may use a propulsion device (eg fins).
  • Unlimited refers to the diver using a guided ballast device for the decent and a guided flotation device for the accent.


    I won't even begin to go into the numerous dangers there are with free-diving. If you attempt to override your bodies natural defences against suffocating by hyperventilating or using other special techniques, you run into dangers. Much like with SCUBA diving, you should consult a trained professional before attempting free diving.


    These change over time, and by the time you read this, these are probably wrong.

  • No limits: 1999: 150m (492ft) Umberto Pelizzari
  • Variable weight: 1998: 121m (397ft) Gianluca Genoni
  • Constant weight: 1999: 80m (262ft) Umberto Pelizzari


  • Limited personal experience