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What is AIDA?

The Association Internationale pour le Développement de l'Apnée, known in English as the International Association for the Development of Apnea, is an organization devoted to the sport of freediving. They host competitions, set standard rules, and enforce safety practices around the world. Beyond their rule- and record-keeping duties, the group also devotes time and effort to promoting freediving and educating those who are interested in it.

The History of AIDA

Freediving was brought into the mainstream in 1988 by the film The Big Blue, a dramatization of a rivalry between a pair of champion freedivers. After the movie’s release, there was an increase in record attempts. Unfortunately, these attempts were extremely unorganized, as they weren’t regulated by any commonly agreed-upon rules or safety guidelines. By the early 90s, there was a significant freediving community that was looking for a way to come together and share both their passion for the sport and their safety techniques. In this spirit, AIDA was created in 1992.

AIDA Roatan
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What is Freediving?

Also known as breath-hold diving and skin diving, freediving is a type of diving that involves simply holding your breath, instead of relying on scuba gear. Being good at the sport requires both a strong body and strong lungs. There are many ways to freedive, both competitive and noncompetitive, including freediving photography, underwater rugby, synchronized swimming, and snorkeling. In competitive apnea events, participants compete to see who can achieve the greatest depths, times, and distances without coming up for air. AIDA breaks this down into eight categories, including static apnea, dynamic with and without fins, free immersion, and no limit.

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Recreational Freediving

Not all freedivers are in it for the glory of a world championship. Many just want to see the beauty of the sea, unencumbered by scuba equipment, which is not only heavy but expensive as well. The best freedivers are able to go as deep as recreational scuba divers, although they can’t stay down for nearly as long. There are also risks associated with going too deep, including decompression sickness. But as long as divers stay well-informed and only take the risks they are comfortable with, it can be a safe and relaxing way to get a glimpse of aquatic nature.

Exploring Caves and Caverns

The natural architecture of underwater rock formations appeals to many divers, who are eager to explore more than just open water. Diving in these areas is similar to diving anywhere else, but there are some key differences to keep in mind. For one thing, it can get a lot darker, so it’s a good idea to bring a light along. And while swimming upward is the best way to reach oxygen in most situations, in a cave you might have to swim sideways before you can head toward the surface. Finding a pocket of air within a cavern isn’t the safe haven you might think, since it could contain any number of dangerous gases.

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Since freedivers are relying solely on their bodies, it’s important for them to take time to hone the skills required to do the activity well. One of the biggest necessities is, of course, the ability to hold your breath. But it’s not enough to be able to stand still for a while without breathing, you need to keep your lungs strong while exerting yourself physically. So many divers train above water with what’s called an apnea walk. This involves walking as far as you can without taking a breath. It helps teach your muscles to work without a steady flow of oxygen. And it gives beginners a way to improve their diving skills above ground, so they can test their limits without fear of drowning.