Freediving Certifications – A Complete Guide

Freediving is a blend of physical discipline and mental focus. Unlike scuba diving, freediving eschews underwater breathing apparatus and challenges practitioners to dive depths on the limits of their breath-holding capabilities. This sport tests physical limits and promotes a profound connection with the underwater environment. Its silence and simplicity is drawing an ever growing crowd.

The path to freediving safely and effectively lies through training and proper certification. Obtaining a freediving certification from a recognised body ensures that divers have the essential skills, knowledge of safety procedures, and physiological insights necessary to enjoy this challenging sport safely. However, there are a few too many to choose from which can make it pretty confusing!

Major Freediving Awarding Bodies

AIDA International

As the International Association for the Development of Apnea, AIDA has spearheaded competitive freediving since the mid-1990s. It is recognized globally for setting standards in freediving education, safety, and record validations. AIDA’s courses are designed around safety and self-awareness, pushing the boundaries of what is humanly possible underwater.

PADI Freediver

The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) has long been a giant in scuba diving certifications. In recent years, PADI has applied its extensive experience to the world of freediving. Offering structured courses that emphasize ease of access and learning, PADI makes freediving approachable for divers transitioning from scuba to freediving.

SSI Freediving

Scuba Schools International (SSI) has adapted its robust scuba training methodologies to the freediving discipline. With a focus on comprehensive training and flexible learning options, SSI Freediving offers a well-rounded approach that appeals to those looking to integrate freediving into a broader spectrum of water sports. SSI’s courses are the most advanced at each level where “PADI Level 2 (Advanced Freediver)” is a prerequisite for the “SSI Level 2” and not “PADI Level 1” given the greater training depths.

Apnea Academy

Founded by the legendary freediver Umberto Pelizzari, Apnea Academy focuses on the art and philosophy behind freediving. The academy’s courses are deeply rooted in understanding the physiology and psychology of freediving, catering to those who seek a more profound connection with the sport.

Molchanovs

This body stands out for its community-driven approach and commitment to ongoing education. Founded by world-class freedivers, Molchanovs offers a pathway that includes not only initial training but also a progression system that encourages continuous improvement and community interaction.

Beginner Qualification Levels Explained

There are some taster-level courses, such as AIDA 1 and PADI Basic Freediver, which focus on understanding the risks of freediving and familiarising students with breathing techniques which we do not cover here. These courses are ideal for beginners who are new to freediving or snorkelling and are not as confident in the water.

The Freediver Level 1 courses are generally structured into three phases:

  1. Knowledge Development:
    • This initial phase involves learning the fundamental principles of freediving, either as self-study or in the classroom with an instructor.
  2. Confined Water Sessions:
    • In this phase, students practice breath-holding and learn both static and dynamic apnea techniques in a pool or confined water setting. Dynamic apnea refers to a discipline in freediving where the diver swims horizontally underwater on a single breath where as static is without swimming and just holding your head underwater.
  3. Open Water Sessions:
    • The course culminates with open-water dives, where students apply what they’ve learned in a natural setting. The focus is on mastering free immersion and constant-weight freedives and practising safe buddy procedures.

Passing Criteria for Beginner Freediving Courses:

The passing criteria vary slightly from organisation but include the following elements:

Achieve a static apnea hold of at least 90 seconds and a dynamic apnea swim of 25 meters (approximately 80 feet). The target for this phase is to perform a constant-weight freedive to a depth of 10 meters (about 30 feet) and perform certain skills such as a buddy rescue. Generally, the maximum depth allowed for Level 1 students is 20 meters.

PADI Freediver:

  • Theory Exam: Pass the final theory exam to demonstrate understanding of freediving principles and safety procedures.
  • Static Apnea: Perform a static apnea of at least 90 seconds in the pool.
  • Dynamic Apnea: Complete a dynamic apnea swim of at least 25 meters in the pool.
  • Constant Weight Dive (CWT): Successfully perform a constant weight dive to 10 meters in the pool, which includes demonstrating a buddy rescue

AIDA 2* – Freediver:

  • Theory Exam: Successfully pass the theoretical exam covering essential freediving knowledge and safety.
  • Static Apnea (STA): Achieve a static apnea hold of 2 minutes.
  • Dynamic Apnea (DYN): Swim 40 meters under dynamic apnea conditions.
  • Constant Weight Dive (CWT): Complete a constant weight dive reaching a depth of 12 meters.

SSI Level 1 Freediving:

  • Age and Consent Requirements: Participants must be at least 12 years old. Those under 18 require a signed consent form from a parent or guardian.
  • Swim and Float Requirements: Demonstrate the ability to swim 200 meters unassisted and float or tread water for 10 minutes.
  • Theory Exam: Pass a theory exam to confirm understanding of freediving basics and safety.
  • Depth Skills: Practice and perform various freediving skills at a depth of 10 meters up to 20 meters.

Intermediate Qualification Levels Explained

Course Structure:

  1. Knowledge Development: eLearning or classroom sessions to study advanced techniques and equipment.
  2. Confined Water Sessions: Emphasis on stretching, relaxation, and refining apnea skills.
  3. Open Water Sessions: Focus on deeper free immersion and constant weight freedives, plus enhanced buddy procedures and rescue techniques.

PADI Advanced Freediver Course

Depths and Timings:

  • Static Apnea: 2 minutes, 30 seconds (2 minutes for under 18s)
  • Dynamic Apnea: 50 meters (165 feet; 40 meters/130 feet for under 18s)
  • Constant Weight Freedive: 20 meters (65 feet; 15 meters/50 feet for under 18s)

Prerequisites:

  • Completion of the PADI Freediver course or equivalent.
  • Minimum age of 15 (parental approval required for those under 18).

AIDA 3* Advanced Freediver

Course Structure:

  • Comprehensive training including classroom theory, confined water sessions to refine static and dynamic apnea techniques, and open water sessions to practice constant weight freediving.

Depths and Timings:

  • Static Apnea (STA): 2 minutes, 45 seconds
  • Dynamic Apnea (DYN): 55 meters
  • Constant Weight Dive (CWT): 24 meters

Prerequisites:

  • Minimum age of 18 (16 with parental consent).
  • Can swim 200m non-stop without fins or 300m with mask, fins, and snorkel.
  • Completion of AIDA 2 course or AIDA 2 Crossover Evaluation.

SSI Level 2 Freediving

Course Structure:

  • Duration: 3 days, starting with classroom and pool training, followed by open water sessions, potentially including boat-based dives for depth access.

Depths and Timings:

  • Static Apnea: Timings not explicitly defined, focuses on enhancement of techniques.
  • Dynamic Apnea: Extended distances past basic levels.
  • Open Water Sessions: 4
  • Constant Weight Freedive: Up to 30 meters (approximately 90 feet).

Prerequisites:

  • Level 1 certification from SSI, PADI, or an equivalent qualification from AIDA.
  • At least 6 logged dive sessions, with comfort in diving at 15-20 meters suggested.
  • Minimum age requirement is typically 18, or younger with parental consent.

Freediving Courses Equivalence

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Max
Co-founder and Chief Adventurer

I am Max, the co-founder and CEO of adventuro. We are on a mission to help you get into the sports you have always wanted to try, or develop in the sports you love, exploring new skills and locations. We do this by partnering with the best instructors, guides, and activity centres to get a great spread from beginner all the way to instructor training.

For too long, it has been way to confusing to find your next steps, or even to know where to start when getting into adventure sports. I am an experienced and/or qualified paraglider, skydiver, scuba diver, freediver, power boat driver, snowboarder, kitesurfer, kayaker, mountain biker, surfer, dirt biker, wakeboarder, and sailor.

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