History of Freediving

The history of diving goes back to a long tradition. This history began with apnea or free diving, i.e. diving with held breath. Some archaeological findings prove that as early as 4,500 B.C. there were people who used free diving to secure their livelihood. Before people began to seriously experiment with the first diving apparatus and aids in the Renaissance, apnoea diving was the only way to get hold of pearl oysters, red corals, sponges or other seafood. Among the first apnoea divers known today are the Haenyeo people in Korea and the Japanese Amas, who were already diving for sponges and shells more than 2,000 years ago. The tradition of the Amas is still continued in Japan today. In the Mediterranean, the first sponge divers descended to twenty to thirty metres in the time of the Greek poet Homer in the 8th century BC to harvest bath sponges. In order to meet the demand for the sought-after bath sponges, which were used in ancient Greece to cleanse the body, free diving and the professional search for sponges spread rapidly. Even back then, apnoea divers used weights for diving to quickly reach depths of up to 30 meters. For this purpose the Greek freedivers used Skandalopetra, a stone slab which weighs between 8 and 14 kg, is hydrodynamic and rounded. This was connected to the boat with the help of a rope and while diving the stone was held with both hands. To get back to the surface, the divers stood on the stone plate, which was pulled up by a boatman. This technique was used for thousands of years. The spear divers around the Mediterranean Sea also form the historical background for the development of the sport of apnea. Nowadays free diving has its greatest spread in the form of underwater hunting. Apart from the economic interests, very soon there was another driving force that perfected the art of freediving: the military. Various historians described in their reports already 2,400 years ago the work of the combat divers, whose task it was to dive under enemy boats to drill their hulls, to cut the anchor lines or to deliver secret messages. When Sparta was besieged by the Athenians in the 4th century B.C., its inhabitants had divers provide them with the essentials. Likewise, free divers helped the Greek military during an attack on Syracuse (Sicily) to cross the underwater barriers that were supposed to damage the ships.

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The Greek Giorgis Haggi Statti was one of the first freedivers, whose legendary history began in 1913. The Italian warship Regina Margerita lost its anchor during an anchor manoeuvre off the Greek island of Karpathos. After countless dives in the style of the Greek sponge divers, the Greek actually managed to find and recover the anchor at a depth of about 75 meters. The amazing thing was the Greek's state of health before his dive: 1.75 meters tall, weighing about 60 kg, pulse between 80 and 90 beats, one eardrum ruptured, the other completely gone and his lung had emphysema. But still he was able to manage a dive to such a depth. The first official world record was set by Raimondo Bucher in 1949, who at the time bet that he could dive to a depth of 30 meters. So the fight for the depth was officially opened. In 1961, Enzo Maiorca was the first to dive to a depth of 50 metres. In 1976, Jacques Mayol was the first to break the magic 100-meter mark. 13 years later, Angela Bandini surprised the diving world and with a depth of 107 meters she broke all records. Nowadays there is a large number of free divers at a high level, as can be seen from the development of the apnoea sport into a popular sport. World records are no longer broken every year, but almost every month.

Adapted from HEAD Germany GmbH