Before the invention of scuba gear, freediving was the only way for people to explore underwater. In ancient times, it was used for everything from finding fish to searching for treasure in sunken ships. Today, it's popular both as a competitive sport and a relaxing activity. In this guide, we'll dive deep into the history of freediving.

Freediving Through the Years

332 BCE Alexander the Great uses divers to dismantle underwater barricades
1913 A Greek man dives more than 60 meters to find a missing ship's anchor
1927 The first diving mask is invented
1933 Swimming fins are first patented
1949 Raimondo Bucher founds the modern sport of freediving
1988 The film The Big Blue popularizes freediving
1992 AIDA International is founded

Historical Freediving Around the World

  1. Greece: Divers used weights to gather sponges
  2. Japan: A group of women known as Ama collected pearls
  3. Philippines: Large pearls were harvested for the sultan
  4. America: Native Americans dove for freshwater pearls

Japanese Freedivers Today

Modern-Day Freediving Equipment

More Information

Before scuba gear was invented, freediving was popular in various countries around the world. It is a kind of diving where divers don't use any equipment for breathing support, so they must rely on holding their breath to last underwater. Because of the limitations of breath-holding, a person can only go to certain depths when using this technique.

Freediving was used by ancient people for various purposes like hunting for food, pearls, sponges, and other valuables that came from sunken ships. Since the Mediterranean is where a lot of maritime trading occurred, divers were hired to find important or precious items under the sea.

Freedivers also used their skills for disassembling underwater barricades in warfare. This happened during conflicts like the Peloponnesian War and the Siege of Tyre. In Japan, traditional divers are called "ama divers," which means "sea woman," since most of them are women. These people began collecting pearls around 2,000 years ago.

Pearl diving was also very common in the Philippines in the ancient times, especially for those in the Sulu region of the country. The largest pearls belonged to the sultan according to their law and trading them was punishable by death.

But even with their strict laws, these large pearls still ended up in the hands of wealthy European families. Divers outside Asia also harvested pearls. Native Americans looked for them in the lakes and rivers of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Ohio.

Eventually, sports that involve breath-holding were invented and played by athletes. These include aquathlon, synchronized swimming, and underwater hockey, football, and rugby.

Another famous sport that involves freediving is competitive apnea. AIDA or the International Association for Development of Apnea is an organization that governs the sport along with C.M.A.S.. These organizations have their own standards and rules for competitions and for setting world records. Aside from these two organizations, Guinness also has its own disciplines for competitive apnea.

Modern competitive freediving has eight disciplines which are constant weight with fins, constant weight without fins, free immersion, variable weight, no-limits, static apnea, and dynamic apnea with and without fins.

But freediving is not only for those who are looking for pearls or for those who want to win a trophy. It's also for people who want to see the beauty of the sea and appreciate the natural resources underwater.

While scuba diving is more popular, a lot of people still prefer freediving because it doesn't require bringing along heavy equipment. Aside from this, there are also other advantages like lower costs, better mobility and speed, and less preparation time because there are no oxygen tanks to worry about.

Freediving also opens opportunities for cave and cavern explorations. But because of the limited space and rock formations above the water, divers have to be more careful when engaging in these activities.

You need more than dive lights and fins to get started with this hobby. Physical, mental, and breathing training is also vitally important. The apnea walk is one exercise that divers do as preparation for freediving. It basically involves walking while holding your breath.

The risk of blackout while underwater is huge for freedivers, which is why they are trained to recognize warning signs while diving. Competitions are strictly supervised and have highly-trained first aiders in case the diver loses consciousness. Participants are also required to be experts in rescuing and resuscitating, in order to keep the sport as safe as possible.

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