History Of Skin Diving
The history of skin diving, before the World War II era, is unexpectedly sparse. Though the technological equipment needed to skin dive is sparse to to say the least, the sport wasn't as widely practiced historically as some might expect. To skin dive, all it takes is a pair of rubber flippers, a mask, and an uncanny ability to hold your breath. Experienced and dedicated skin divers train incessantly to increase the pressure levels at which they can perform and the lengths of time they can hold their breath. The beauty of skin diving is the lack of equipment separating you and the water. It makes skin diving especially tough, but also accounts for its rich-if relatively short-history as a sport.
Non-competitive roots. Before skin diving actually became a sport, people practiced it to hunt for food. Asian cultures especially put a focus on the ability to free dive when hunting for seafood. In fact, its practice has been traced back over two thousand years by archeologists. Often equipped with nothing but a spear, they dove as deep and long as possible in pursuit of their prey.
A jump in popularity. Despite its ancient beginnings, skin diving wasn't very widely practiced until just after World War II. In the few year span after the soldiers came home, the number of practicing skin divers increased exponentially. Historians typically credit this to the exposure of soldiers to cultures that had already been skin diving non-competitively for centuries. Along with this burst in popularity came a few rudimentary technological advantages. Namely masks designed to handle diving pressures and rubber flippers to increase swimming speed.
The birth of a sport. As a response to the growing popularity of skin diving, the Underwater Society of America was formed in 1959. It offered education and training to new skin divers, and hosted competitions for experienced ones. Similarly, the World Underwater Federation was also formed in 1959. It holds biannual world free diving championships while maintaining a focus on diver education.
Persisting popularity and recreation. In recent years, free diving has managed to maintain its dedicated following. Though not as popular per capita as it was in the Postwar period, passionate free divers add to the sport's growing history every year. Additionally, recreational free diving (also known as snorkeling) has taken hold as a popular activity for on-the-water tourists and frequent beach goers. As it stands, free diving is at a point in its history where it has carved out a stable, solid niche in the sporting world.