Herbert Nitsch

Herbert Nitsch (born 20 April 1970) is an Austrian freediver who has held world records in all of the eight freediving disciplines recognised by AIDA International. He is the current freediving world record champion and "the deepest man on earth". This title was given to him when he set a world record in the "No Limits" discipline at the depth of 214 meters (702 feet). To date, he has achieved 33 official World Records across all freediving disciplines, and one world record in the traditional Greek discipline of Skandalopetra 107 m (351 ft). He surpassed his own No Limits depth with a dive in June 2012 to 253.2 meters (831 feet), suffering injury in the process.

Herbert Nitsch
Born (1970-04-20) 20 April 1970
OccupationWorld Record Holder Free-diver and Air pilot


Nitsch worked part-time as a pilot for Tyrolean Airways.


Achievements and competition history

Nitsch holds the No-Limits record, the title of "Deepest man on Earth" in which the diver can make use of a weighted sled to descend as far as possible and uses an air-filled balloon to return to the surface. Nitsch set the world record[1] in Spetses, Greece in June 2007 when he descended to 214 m (702 ft), beating his own record of 183 m (600 ft) set the previous year. He also held the world record in the Constant Weight event, which is considered by many to be the classic free-diving discipline: the diver descends next to a line, not using the line and unaided by a sled, and must maintain a constant weight, meaning that no weight can be dropped for the return to the surface. Nitsch exceeded the then world record in 2006 when he dived to a depth of 110 m (361 ft), but failure to complete the strict surfacing protocols within the allotted time meant that the dive was disqualified. In Hurghada, Egypt, in December 2006 he did a Constant Weight World Record dive of 111 m (364 ft), adding 2 m on top of Guillaume Néry's previous record.

Later in 2007, he also set the Constant weight (No Fins) record during The Triple Depth in Dahab, Egypt, and went on to push the Constant record to 112 m (367 ft) during the World Championships in Sharm. Herbert also won the AIDA Individual World Championships.

Of the other five AIDA recognised events, Nitsch has been the world record holder in four: Static Apnea, Dynamic Apnea, Free Immersion and Dynamic apnea without fins. He set a time of 9 mins 4 secs for the world Static Apnea record in December 2006 when he held his breath underwater in a swimming pool in Hurgada, a time that was beaten by 4 secs in 2007 by Tom Sietas of Germany. His record of 66 m (217 ft) for Constant Weight without fins, set in 2004, was beaten by 14 m in 2005 by Czech free-diver, Martin Štěpánek, who was also the holder of the Free Immersion record of 106 m (348 ft); Nitsch recorded 100 m (328 ft) in September 2003, but his record was bettered by a dive of 101 m by Carlos Coste of Venezuela in October the same year and then twice improved upon by Štěpánek. Nitsch's Dynamic Apnea record, 183 m set in 2002, has been beaten by 40 m by Tom Sietas and women's champion, Natalia Molchanova of Russia, has also swum further than 200 m. Sietas also holds the Dynamic apnea without fins record at 183 m, beating Nitsch's 2001 distance of 134 m by almost 50 m.

During the 2009 Vertical Blue competition at the Dean's Blue Hole in Bahamas in April, Nitsch set the Free Immersion world record at 109 m (358 ft). He also established two subsequent world record dives in Constant Weight at 114 m (374 ft), and 120 m (394 ft) on the last day of the competition, beating by 6 m the previous record that he had set a few days earlier. He used his arms only in the last 40 m (131 ft) of this ascent, with a total dive time of 3:58.

Later that same year in December at the Dean's Blue Hole in Bahamas, Nitsch broke three world records: Variable Weight at 142 m (466 ft); Free Immersion at 112 m (367 ft); and Constant Weight at 123 m (404 ft).

During his very last competition before retiring from competitive freediving in April 2010 at Vertical Blue, again at the Dean's Blue Hole in Bahamas, Nitsch set another three world records. He landed two subsequent ones in Free Immersion at 114 m (374 ft) and 120 m (394 ft), and a world record in Constant Weight at 124 m (407 ft).

Nitsch focused solely on the "No Limit" events after this, in which the record attempts fall outside of regulated competition.

In 2012, Nitsch returned to the "No Limits" category in the waters off Santorini, Greece, with a project labeled "Extreme 800", aiming for a depth of 244 m (801 ft).

Following extensive training using an innovative torpedo-type sled design of very high descend and ascend speed, on June 6 Nitsch managed to reach a depth of 253.2 meters (831 ft), but ten minutes after the dive he began experiencing serious symptoms of decompression sickness. Nitsch temporarily fell asleep due to nitrogen narcosis during the last part of the ascent (as opposed to through oxygen starvation), and woke up prior to reaching the surface. Following a planned post-dive decompression, breathing medical oxygen at a shallow depth, he signaled his support team that he felt much weaker than normal, and his condition was assessed as critical enough to require an air transfer to a pre-alerted decompression chamber in Athens, where he received treatment. Nitsch subsequently received extensive decompression treatment in Germany. He had incurred multiple brain strokes due to severe decompression sickness.

The initial prognosis was that he would need home care and be unable to walk without a wheelchair. Through extensive rehabilitation, however, he made a significant recovery. He still has balance and coordination problems on land, but does not experience these underwater. He continues to deep free-dive.

Awards and honors

Asteroid 295471 Herbertnitsch, discovered by Italian amateur astronomer Vincenzo Casulli in 2008, was named in his honor.[2] The official naming citation was published by the Minor Planet Center on 27 August 2019 (M.P.C. 115895).[3]

Official Records

Nitsch remains to date the only person that achieved world records across all of AIDA's eight freediving disciplines, in addition to the one he had set in the Greek discipline of Skandalopetra.

DNFAIDA131 m (430 ft)27 January 2001Geneva
DYNAIDA170 m (558 ft)24 February 2001Geneva
CWTAIDA72 m (236 ft)*16 June 2001Millstätter See
CWTAIDA86 m (282 ft)11 October 2001Ibiza
DYNAIDA172 m (564 ft)10 November 2001Berlin
DNFAIDA134 m (440 ft)24 November 2001Wiesbaden
DYNAIDA181 m (594 ft)2 February 2002Vienna
FIMAIDA92 m (302 ft)27 February 2002Austria
DYNAIDA183 m (600 ft)16 November 2002Berlin
FIMAIDA100 m (328 ft)5 September 2003Millstätter See
CWTAIDA95 m (312 ft)5 September 2003Millstätter See[4]
CNFAIDA50 m (164 ft)6 September 2003Millstätter See
CNFAIDA62 m (203 ft)11 September 2004Spetses (Greece)
CNFAIDA66 m (217 ft)12 September 2004Spetses
NLTAIDA172 m (564 ft)2 October 2005Žirje (Croatia)
NLTAIDA183 m (600 ft)28 August 2006Žirje
CWTAIDA111 m (364 ft)9 December 2006Hurghada (Egypt)
STAAIDA9 min 04 sec13 December 2006Hurghada
NLTAIDA185 m (607 ft)13 June 2007Spetses
NLTAIDA214 m (702 ft)14 June 2007Spetses
CNFAIDA83 m (272 ft)21 October 2007Dahab (Egypt)
CWTAIDA112 m (367 ft)1 November 2007Sharm (Egypt)
CWTAIDA114 m (374 ft)4 April 2009Long Island (Bahamas)
FIMAIDA109 m (358 ft)6 April 2009Long Island (Bahamas)
CWTAIDA120 m (394 ft)11 April 2009Long Island (Bahamas)
SKA107 m (351 ft)26 June 2009Lindos (Greece)
VWTAIDA142 m (466 ft)7 December 2009Long Island (Bahamas)
FIMAIDA112 m (367 ft)8 December 2009Long Island (Bahamas)
CWTAIDA123 m (404 ft)9 December 2009Long Island (Bahamas)
FIMAIDA114 m (374 ft)19 April 2010Long Island (Bahamas)
CWTAIDA124 m (407 ft)22 April 2010Long Island (Bahamas)
FIMAIDA120 m (394 ft)25 April 2010Long Island (Bahamas)
NLT*253.2 m (831 ft)6 June 2012Santorini

72m = AIDA Lake Record; after 2001-12-31 AIDA International no longer separated the records achieved in a lake from those in the sea.

* AIDA no longer accredits No Limit freediving records

Personal bests

Time STA 9:04 minAIDA
Distance DNF 138 mAIDA
Depth CNF 83 mAIDA
NLT 253.2 m
214 m
SP 107 m

* AIDA no longer accredits No Limit freediving records


Documentaries and TV
  • 2017: Herbert Nitsch, The Deepest Man On Earth, by UPROXX – Video on YouTube
  • 2016: Supertalent Mensch: Körperbeherrscher, by Terra X – Video on YouTube
  • 2013: Back from the Abyss / Züruck as der Tiefe, the multiple award-winning documentary by Red Bull Media House - Trailer Back from the Abyss: Video on Vimeo and Video on YouTube
  • 2012: La Dernière Frontière, by Camera Lucida - Video on YouTube
  • 2011: The man who can hold his breath for nine minutes – Inside the Human Body: First to Last, by BBC One- Video on YouTube
  • 2009: Apnoetauchen: Neun Minuten ohne einen Atemzug, by Focus Online – Video on YouTube
  • 2009: Stefan Raab by TV Total Video on Vimeo
  • 2009: Aeschbacher by SRF Video on Vimeo


  1. "World Records". AIDA International. Archived from the original on 6 December 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2014.
  2. "JPL Small-Body Database Browser: 295471 Herbertnitsch (2008 QM11)" (2019-02-09 last obs.). Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 26 September 2019.
  3. "MPC/MPO/MPS Archive". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 26 September 2019.
  4. McKie, N (2004). "Freediving in cyberspace". Journal of the South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society. 34: 101–3. Retrieved 5 October 2013.

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