You might be surprised to learn that there are all different kinds of freediving disciplines you can compete in.
In fact, there are 6!
Depending on the kind of freediving you are interested in, you might prefer one over the other.
So to help you decide, we’ve explained the 6 different kinds of competitive freediving below.
What is Competitive Freediving?
Competitive freediving is a sport where divers compete to see who can dive the deepest or hold their breath the longest underwater. Despite having common goals and characteristics, there are actually different kinds of competitive freediving.
Freediving competitions take place in swimming pools, lakes, or the open ocean. In these competitions, divers are judged based on how deep they dive, how long they hold their breath and the amount of weight they carry. Depending on the discipline, different significance may be given to each of these criteria.
What are the 6 Kinds of Competitive Freediving?
Different kinds of competitive freediving require different skills and provide different experiences. Read on to decide which one appeals to you the most!
Constant Weight (CWT)
Constant Weight is one of the most popular disciplines in freediving. Freedivers use fins or a mono fin to descend and ascend a line to a predetermined depth, without any additional weight or propulsion devices. Their only assistance comes from the fins they wear on their feet.
CWT is often considered the most straightforward kind of freediving because success mostly comes from physical strength and endurance, and a solid breathing technique. It’s this focus on perfecting the basics that attracts a lot of purists.
With that said, don’t make the assumption that CWT is easy. Many freedivers love it because it is challenging Gliding through the water because of your own physical power is an incredible feeling!
Constant Weight without Fins (CNF)
Constant Weight without Fins is the most challenging discipline in freediving. In CNF, divers only have their muscle power at their disposal. They must descend and ascend a line to a predetermined depth, without the aid of freediving fins or any other propulsion devices. You’d be surprised how much of a difference fins make!
This discipline requires immense physical strength, technique, and flexibility. CNF is the purest form of freediving and you need both mental and physical discipline if you want to dive successfully.
It’s common for competitive freedivers to perceive CNF as the ultimate test of their freediving skills. That’s why many divers’ set personal bests in CNF trials. Most notably, world champion freediver Alexey Molchanov has set world records in the CNF discipline.
Free Immersion (FIM)
In Free Immersion competitions, divers use their arms to pull down a line to a predetermined depth. By pulling the rope, they are able to generate propulsion in addition to kicking.
FIM requires excellent technique, endurance, and mental focus. Unlike regular diving where the arms and legs work in unison in a swimming motion, hauling yourself along the rope is an unusual movement and champion FIM divers need to practice synchronising this movement.
Many freedivers enjoy FIM because it makes them very conscious of the pressure changes as they descend and ascend. It also lets them feel the depth progression in a more sensory way since they are literally holding the rope, than by just reading a freediving watch or mentally keeping track.
Variable Weight (VWT)
In Variable Weight diving, freedivers use a weighted sled to descend and ascend a line to a predetermined depth. The catch is, the sled helps them descend further, but it doesn’t help with the ascent. The diver must use their own muscle power to reach the surface.
VWT allows freedivers to explore greater depths, while still providing a real challenge due to the unassisted ascent. The added pressure at depth is also an extra challenge, as the diver must equalise to compensate. It can also cause freediving mask issues if the diver doesn’t use the right techniques.
Many freedivers enjoy VWT because it allows them to push their limits while still maintaining safety.
No-Limits is the most extreme freediving discipline. Divers use a weighted sled to descend to a predetermined depth and then ascend using an inflatable lift bag.
NLT allows divers to reach incredible depths, but it is also considered the most dangerous discipline. The descent and ascent are both rapid and can reach depths that wouldn’t usually be achievable through regular freediving.
Divers must be incredibly self-aware of their limits and safety precautions must be in place. Many freedivers avoid NLT, seeing it as unnatural and unacceptably dangerous. Others believe it is the ultimate test of a freediver’s abilities. At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether you are interested in it or not.
While CNF may be the purest kind of freediving, Skandalopetra certainly has the richest history. The ancient Greek discipline requires divers to use a stone or a weight tied to a rope to descend and ascend a line to a predetermined depth. This must be without the aid of fins or any other propulsion devices.
This discipline requires a lot of technique and strength, as the diver must control their buoyancy and maintain their position while descending and ascending. The way the stone or weight is attached to them (just by a rope) is also different from how modern weight belts cling snugly to the diver’s body, adding further challenge.
Many freedivers love SK because it connects them to the rich history and traditions of freediving in Greece. There are few competitive sports that can claim to have been practiced continuously for thousands of years, so being the latest competitor is a special experience.
Join a Freediving Class
Has learning about the different kinds of competitive freediving inspired you to start learning?
Even if you already have freediving experience, your courses can help you refine your technique and prepare for your competitions.