What was the deepest free dive ever recorded?

The ocean can be a scary place, especially when you have no equipment to protect you. Some are not fazed by the danger, though, and free dive deeper than any others have ever gone without a scuba suit.

Free diving is dangerous but impressive!
Free diving is dangerous but impressive!  © Unsplash/Jakob Boman

You'd think that something as primal as the fear of drowning would afflict every single one of us, but you'd be wrong.

This man, armed with nothing but a rope and a harness, managed to free dive further and deeper than any other person in history. It might have been crazy, but it's also inspiring!

We're here to take a deep dive (pun intended) into the world record holder for the deepest free dive ever recorded. Who is this man, how did he achieve this amazing feat, and what other similar records are there of note?

What is the deepest free dive ever?

As reported by the Guardian, the deepest free dive ever completed was undertaken in July 2023 by Arnaud Jerald, who free dived 400 feet under the surface of the ocean. Holding his breath for 105 seconds on the descent and then a following 109 seconds on the ascent, this record-breaking dive was truly something to behold.

The French free diver has now broken the bi-fins free diving world record eight times over, his previous record being a depth of 393 feet. It's a very competitive activity, as each time Jerald made the record, he has then been overtaken by another diver.

This time, Jerald beat Russian diver Alexey Molchanov, who has held the record since May 2023. It's likely that before too long, Arnaud's impressive 400-foot free dive will be beaten by another passionate diver.

The story of the deepest free dive

To perform this extraordinary feat, Arnaud Jerald had to wear a very light-weight, custom-made wetsuit that was designed to make it easier for him to both descend and ascend. He also wore light carbon fins that provided him with the necessary push he would need to reach such a depth.

Arnaud Jerald was attached by a harness and carabiner to a cable that had already been lowered into the water. A tag was attached to the bottom plate, at 400 feet, which he had to bring back up to the surface as proof of a successful dive. Assumedly, the carabiner attachment was a safety measure to keep him close to the cable and easily rescuable if something went wrong.

After a whopping four minutes under the water, holding his breath the whole time, Jerald emerged tag in hand. He then executed a number of mandatory "surface protocols" to make sure that his lungs were working properly and that no damage had been sustained.

Free diving is an extremely dangerous sport and can cause severe damage to your lungs if you are not trained properly. It requires a lot of skill and practice to do what Jerald did.

Deepest unassisted free dive

In 2016, New Zealand's William Trubridge managed to dive 330 feet underwater without the help of even a set of fins. While all of these records are generally disputed, Trubridge is often credited as the world record holder for the deepest unassisted free dive in history.

In an interview with TVNZ that same year, the Kiwi spoke of his experience, saying, "When I grabbed the tag at the bottom there was an initial kind of rush or surge of yeah I'm here at the depth and then that thought comes back to you – 'no I've still got to swim 102m back to the surface."

On his way up, Trubridge started to feel hypoxia, a sign of the impact that low oxygen has on the brain. He described an urge to breathe about half-way up, and how he had started to wonder whether it was going to go "pear-shaped."

"I just tried to kind of stay relaxed and focused, and that sensation didn't get any worse, which is good, and all of a sudden I was kind of close to the surface and realized hey, I was going to be able to make this."

Don't try this without proper training and practice, folks!
Don't try this without proper training and practice, folks!  © Unsplash/NEOM

Deepest indoor pool free dive

Deep Dive Dubai is the world's deepest swimming pool, sporting a depth of 196.9 feet. Unsurprisingly, considering the pool's name, it is located in Dubai, the capital of the Emirate of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. It's an extraordinary structure that boasts the equivalent of six Olympic-length swimming pools in water volume.

In 2022, Alexey Molchanov managed to reach the bottom of this deep pool. He was the first to be successful at this remarkable undertaking, and did so in only 57 seconds – less than a minute!

The world's deepest free dive was an extraordinary feat!

The average person can generally hold their breath for between 30 and 90 seconds at a time, with the ability to increase this time through intense training. Even with that training, though, there are very few people who can hold their breath for two minutes, let alone for as long as Arnaud Jerald managed.

Jerald can hold his breath for more than double the high end of that average. Accomplishing this must have required a lot of training and hard work – and is truly extraordinary!

Cover photo: Unsplash/Jakob Boman

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