“Each time I think I’ve reached a limit...there is a door...it opens...and the limit is gone.”
Herbert Nitsch is the current freediving world record holder and “the Deepest Man on Earth”. This prestigious title was given to him when he then set the world record for freediving at an incredible depth of 214 meters (702 feet) in 2007 in the No Limit discipline. He surpassed this world record with a No Limit dive to 253.2 m (830.8 ft) in 2012.
Herbert can hold his breath for more than 9 minutes and has set a total of 33 world records. 32 of these are in all of the 8 recognized freediving disciplines – unrivaled achievements in the freediving history. Herbert has set an additional world record in the traditional Greek freediving discipline Skandalopetra.
He is the first and only freediver documented and recorded to go beyond 180m/590ft during multiple No Limit dives, and the first freediver ever to reach 100m/328ft without fins or sled (free immersion, 2003). He took a break from championships in 2010 to focus solely on the No Limit discipline which is not included in competitions.
On June 6th, 2012, Herbert dove to 253.2 m (830.8 ft). During the No Limit sled-dive, well after having reached the planned depth, Herbert temporarily fell asleep due to nitrogen narcosis and consequently missed the planned one-minute underwater decompression stop on the same breath-hold. At the surface he was alert and asked for a mask to return underwater to recompress on pure oxygen, which is a standard after-dive safety feature to further off-gas. But it was too late.
While decompressing underwater, Herbert felt the onset of decompression sickness. He incurred severe DCS (type 2) which would eventually result in multiple brain-strokes. It is interesting to note that DCS symptoms occur after a dive and in serious cases can take up to 24 hours to appear. He arrived comatose at the hyperbaric chamber and his future did not look good. With a prognosis of remaining a "wheelchair-bound care-dependent patient", he dismissed himself from long-term facilitated care, and took his healing into his own hands. Two years later, against all odds, Herbert is fit, training and deep-freediving again.
Unlike other elite freedivers Herbert is self-taught and a pioneer in every way. He developed his own freediving techniques and equipment over the years that meanwhile have become common elements in the current freediving scene. His motives are about the unknown, about crossing physiological boundaries, achieving goals that seem beyond the limits. In December of 2013, Herbert proudly joined the Ocean Advocacy Advisory Board of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which is active in protecting the ocean's wildlife and environments. He is also a well-sought after lecturer world wide for corporations (banks, pharmaceutical companies, airlines, events, etc.) and for the general public. When he is not freediving or lecturing, he is either writing or busy with the design of his ocean-going eco-boat on which he intends to live in the future.