Freediving has a competitive aspect where divers compete in three disciplines in depth, and three disciplines in the swimming pool. It is a fully organised sport with world championships, national championships and local competitions. The organising body for freediving in Australia and New Zealand is AIDA. This abbreviation stands for Association Internationale pour le Développement de l'Apnée. Australia has its national body, the Australian Freediving Association. www.australianfreediving.org
Many recreational divers do freediving courses and train in freediving techniques to improve their performances in their respective sports and activities. Freediving schools and coaches easily cater for them and have drills designed for their varying needs. For example a spearfisher would rather have exercises to assist him with multiple dives over a longer period, where a competitive freediver is looking for training towards a single deepest or longest dive.
It’s not unusual for a recreational freediver to find he enjoys the aspects of competitive freediving and take it up as a sport.
Freediving, the Sport
Freediving first became a sport in Europe where many of the countries have access to the deep and usually, clear water of the Mediterranean Sea. The pool aspects were more as training rather than competitions, but with many countries unable to dive deep water all year round, the swimming pool training morphed into competitive events. It didn’t take long for standards to be set and organisations created to support and further the sport.
There are two main sporting bodies regulating and promoting freediving, CMAS and AIDA.
CMAS: Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques, the international umbrella organization for underwater sports, both competitive (e.g. freediving, underwater hockey) and recreational (e.g. scuba diving, snorkelling)
AIDA:Association Internationale pour le Développement de l'Apnée (AIDA) (English: International Association for Development of Apnea) is a worldwide rule- and record-keeping body for competitive breath holding events (freediving). It aims to set standards for safety, comparability of Official World Record attempts and freedive education. AIDA International is the parent organization for national clubs of the same name.
At the writing of this CMAS is a much larger organisation in Europe covering many different sports. Outside Europe, a greater portion of the freediving is managed by AIDA. Australia and New Zealand freediving is under the AIDA International management, each with their own national association. In Australia the national body is called Australian Freediving Association. https://australianfreediving.org
There are two aspects in the sport of freediving: depth disciplines, held in a lake or ocean, and swimming pool disciplines. As in all sports there are a written guidelines, systems of measurement and rules. These are available on AIDA Int webpage.
The disciplines are as follows:
Constant Weight (CWT)
Constant weight is a depth discipline where the diver descends down a rope to his nominated depth, retrieves a tag from the base plate and returns to the surface. He must do this on a single breath without changing his ballast. I.e. the freediver cannot drop any weights to assist his ascent. In this discipline he may not use the rope to assist his descent or ascent.
Constant Weight No Fins (CNF)
This discipline is the same as the above CWT but it is performed without the aide of fins.
Free Immersion (FIM)
In Free Immersion the diver uses the rope to descend and ascend. The freediver must still nominate a depth, pick up the tag off the base plate, but instead of swimming, he pulls himself down and up the rope. He may descend head first or feet first.
Variable Weight (VWT)
This discipline is called Variable Weight because the diver can vary the weight. The freediver can descend with the help of extra weights then ascend with no weights at all. The world governing body who officiates in Australia, AIDA does not sanction this discipline. The nature of the fast descent, and extra depth possible has a too high risk factor. As a safety note, some spearfishers use this method to get longer time at far greater depths. It is this type of spearfishing that can easily develop decompression sickness. This should never be done without a thorough study of the risks and a plan on handling a diver who develops the symptoms.
No Limits (NLT)
In No Limits, there are no limits. It is simply the descent to the deepest one can go, usually using a weighted frame called a sled, and when returning to the surface the sled could be winched up or in many cases the diver has large balloons that he can inflate at depth that return the sled to the surface. AIDA does not sanction this discipline due to the risk factor and the number of injuries incurred in the past.
Dynamic Apnea (DYN)
Dynamic Apnea is a discipline held in swimming pools. It is the distance the freediver can swim underwater on a single breath with fins, or a monofin.
Dynamic No Fins (DNF)
Dynamic No Fins is the same as Dynamic Apnea with one difference. It is done with no fins. It is the distance swum underwater on a single breath.
Static Apnea (STA)
Static Apnea is a pool discipline. It is the duration of a breath hold while face down in the water. Static meaning still, and apnea meaning the holding of one's breath.