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UAE-based free divers target more underwater records

After years in the shadow of scuba, the sport of free diving has been increasingly moving from the marginal to the mainstream. Also known by its scientific name “apnea,” free diving has always had a fervent following, with its practitioners often obsessively chasing marginal gains in performance.

Providing a simultaneous physiological and psychological challenge like few other sports, free diving is pushing the limits of human endurance.

Just last year, French free diver Arnaud Jerald broke the world record for the deepest dive with bi-fins as he descended to a depth of 120 meters in 3 minutes, 34 seconds.

Helped by hit Netflix shows like “The Deepest Breath” and “Hold Your Breath: The Ice Dive,” free diving’s popularity is firmly on the rise and the organization Freediving UAE exemplifies this. It began life in 2009 as a small group of passionate practitioners but has grown into a thriving community of divers — many of whom now test their limits in competitions.

In July, one such event, the Apnea Pirates AIDA Cup, was hosted in Dubai. Organized under the auspices of the International Association for the Development of Apnea, it was a first taste of competitive free diving for some and was notable for a number of new national records being set. Palestinian Firas Fayyad and Iraqi Aws Lafta were among those to claim new benchmarks for their respective nations.

Former scuba diver Fayyad claimed five Palestinian records including holding his breath for 5:24 in the Static Apnea category and swimming 75 meters horizontally underwater in the Dynamic With Fins competition. For Fayyad, it was a documentary about New Zealander William Trubridge, the first man to dive deeper than 100 meters without oxygen, that initially