Picture Credit: Daan Verhoeven (www.daanverhoeven.com)
The British Freediving Association (BFA) is saddened by the news 23 times World Champion freediver Natalia Molchanova was reported missing after diving on Sunday August 2nd off the island of Formentera near Ibiza. Natalia was diving recreationally for fun with friends to depths of 30-40m without fins, a relatively shallow depth for someone of her accomplishments, when she failed to surface. Search efforts are ongoing but Natalia has yet to be found in a region known to have deep water currents. When Natalia was diving on Sunday, she was diving recreationally in the sea which is the same activity enjoyed by many recreational free divers and snorkelers in the ocean to much shallower depths.
During training and competition, Natalia always dived on a line with a safety lanyard which is the system all trained freedivers use to avoid unnecessary dangers. Being attached to a line allows the divers safety freedivers to react immediately should a diver ever have any problem during a dive. Natalia was a great teacher of freediving as well as a great athlete and would have taught this system to her hundreds of students many times.
The sport of freediving has strict safety protocols in place which are developed by the sports main organisation AIDA International www.aidainternational.org and used in competition. Safe diving practises are also taught to all students when they enrol on a course with a properly qualified freediving Instructor, making the sport a surprisingly safe pastime despite its media image as an extreme sport. Freedivers combine careful training, slow progression and a combination of athleticism and meditative techniques to allow them to make their dives.
Natalia is much loved and respected within the International freediving community as a gracious Champion and exceptional person and her loss will be hard for the community to come to terms with. She has broken 41 World records and won 23 Gold medals in World Championships making her the most accomplished freediving athlete in history. The first female athlete to break the 100m barrier with a dive to 101m during the 2013 depth World Championships, she set yet another world record with a dive to 71m in the no fins discipline in May in Egypt at the age of 53.
Natalia is the president of the Russian Freediving Federation and has developed many training programs for teaching freediving safely around the world. She is the author of scientific articles about freediving, and she has written poetry on the subject. She was known by her peers as being a remarkable athlete and intensely competitive, whilst remaining accessible to everyone, and always being generous with help and advice.
Natalia had an intense love of the sea and the sport of Freediving, and devoted her life to doing the thing she loved. Our condolences go to Natalia’s son and training partner Alexey, and to all of her family and friends at this time.
Thankfully tragedies such as this are rare in free diving, but never freedive alone and always seek training from a qualified instructor.