Freediving Categories

Freediving is divided into several categories. Basically, any activity that is performed underwater while breathholding can be considered freediving. However, depending on whether the diver wants to reach a depth, a distance or a time, and what equipment and techniques the diver is using to achieve these goals, then the categories will be different. The most respected and important categories are the Vertical Immersion categories, although the Horizontal Immersion categories are very popular due to the availability of practice means.

Vertical Immersion

In these categories the objective of the diver is to reach a certain depth and they are divided in two main groups: Constant Ballast and Variable Ballast.

Constant Ballast

In this group, the diver must complete the dive and return to the surface carrying with him/her exactly the same equipment that he/she took underwater at the beginning of the dive. This includes any weight, and thus the category’s a name. The allowable equipment is only equipment that remains attached to the diver and which must be activated by the diver’s own physical energy. This may include fins, masks, suits, snorkels, or nothing at all. Based on this, there are three different categories in this group:

Equipment Assisted Constant Ballast

Diver may use any diving gear, but must complete the dive without any other assistance, including the descent line or rope used for reference. This is usually achieved with the use of fins so the diver basically kicks down and up. This is considered as the most popular category since it has long had the push of diving gear manufacturers to show off their products.

Line Assisted Constant Ballast

The diver is not allowed to use any diving gear that may provide propulsion, like fins. The only accepted means of propulsion is by arm-pulling on a line/rope that goes from the surface to the goal depth. Any equipment used for purposes other than propulsion, such as wetsuits, masks, etc, is accepted. This category is very respected, since it requires great physical strength and flawless technique.

Unassisted Constant Ballast

This is the purest form of freediving, only accepted as an official category very recently. The diver may not use any equipment for propulsion nor the line for pulling, thus having to swim on his/her own all the way down and up (hence the nickname “frog style”). Both men and women records in this category are still open, as no official dive has been performed in the presence of Judges yet.

Variable Ballast

The diver may use a weighted device (known as “sled”) to speed up his/her descent, which can be abandoned once the intended depth is reached.The ascent, however, must be performed under the diver’s own power, although he/she may use any gear of preference and/or pull on the line. This category is a cross between Constant Ballast and Variable Ballast and this is well like by all freedivers.

Limited Variable Ballast

Diver may use any diving gear, but must complete the dive without any other assistance, including the descent line or rope used for reference. This is usually achieved with the use of fins so the diver basically kicks down and up. This is considered as the most popular category since it has long had the push of diving gear manufacturers to show off their products.

Unlimited Variable Ballast:

The diver may use the sled for the descent and, in addition, an auxiliary device such as a balloon or lift-bag may be used to speed up the ascent as well. This is the deepest and most extreme of all freediving categories, and thus the most spectacular.It is on this type of freediving that the popular film “The Big Blue” is based on. The logistical and financial requirements associated with this category make it almost prohibitive, so new records here are always eagerly anticipated by the legion of fans around the world.

Horizontal Immersion

In these categories the objective of the diver is to reach a certain depth and they are divided in two main groups: Constant Ballast and Variable Ballast.

Constant Ballast

The goal of this type of freediving is to reach a distance underwater rather than a depth. The depth is not important here, as long as the diver remains submerged while swimming horizontally. This is usually done in a swimming pool, although horizontal immersion is also practiced in the sea or lakes in shallow depths.

Equipment Assisted Horizontal Immersion

In this category the diver can use fins or any other swimming gear of preference. The diver must complete the dive with same equipment from beginning to end.

Unasisted Horizontal Immersion

In this category the diver is not allowed to use fins.