The Curious History of Free-diving
In the beginning, a mysterious breed of men risked all to explore the deep unknown; mostly fishermen, these men would venture under the sea in search of fish, crustaceans and other seafood… Long considered mutants, they increasingly became the subject of scientific investigation, whose proponents would propose theories and depth limitations not to be exceeded. But it quickly became clear that there was more to this particular activity than could immediately be discerned, and that science and medicine were only just beginning to scratch the surface of a larger mystery…
It was in 1913, that a Greek fisherman named GHEORGIOS HAGGI STATTI offered to recover the lost anchor of an Italian navy ship moored at Sparthakos in Greece in more than 70 metres of water. This half-naked, frail-looking little man made repeated descents for a week before finally locating and hooking the ship’s anchor. “I felt the weight of all the ocean on my shoulders,” he would tell the doctor on board who remained baffled and astounded by Gheorgios’ exploit.
Even though this event was consigned to the archives of the Italian navy, the story is nevertheless a delicious anecdote to the mystery which today still fascinates all who hear it.
In 1949 in the bay of Syracuse, Raymond Bucher tied a shotgun round his waist and dove 30 metres to recover a scarf as proof of his exploit. He opened the way to the development of the sport which men have since continued to challenge in their quest for absolute depth.
The materials and equipment have evolved, techniques for descent and training methods have become refined, all resulting in the constant pushing back of boundaries and limitations. Human beings have revealed excellent adaptive qualities in different free-diving environments, which have become far-ranging and diversified. Swimming pools have been successful proving grounds for pushing limits; now it is all about time, distance and depth.
It is thus that men established the first steps of our sport. Later, in order to organise and harmonise these sportsmen into a safe and practical official body, the International Association for the Development of Freediving was created (l’Association Internationale pour le Développement de l’Apnée, or AIDA).
Even though other organisations had similar ambitions, the AIDA became the reference point in terms of competition rules and the homogenisation of records.
Nowadays, free-divers descend to more than 180 metres; others travel more than 200m in distance immersion. Others still, hold their breath for ten minutes or more. But all are animated by the same passion that was born more than 50 years ago in Syracuse… the quest to explore the unknown.
Free-diving today touches a large segment of the public; it is cheap and accessible to all and anyone can try it… one dips slowly beneath the surface, opens ones eyes and finds oneself in another dimension…the pleasure is immediate.
Every day the global community of free-divers grows across the world as men and women are inspired to join, learn more, train, meet other free-divers and even participate in competitions.
Come and meet them at www.freedivecentral.com
Long live free-diving!