Alexey Molchanov’s World Record Dive to 130m: An Analysis
The world of competitive freediving has changed with Alexey Molchanov’s world record dive to 130m – we can now observe freedivers, as spectators, what is happening at depths with the incredible perspective provided by the remote controlled Dive Eye. Freediving has now become a spectator sport in the 21st Century. If you haven’t observed this amazing performance, this is the Youtube link:
As an AIDA Freediving Instructor this provides the unique opportunity to analyse his performance. What did I observe from watching his world record constant weight dive using a monofin?
- Alexey did 130 metres in 3.55 minutes or 1.10 metres/sec average speed.
- The lanyard is on his right wrist and the dive watch on his left wrist. I did not observe any other dive computers unless he had one in his hood to better hear his dive alarms.
- He had a light on his head too – very interesting. I have not seen such a small light on the market.
- He uses no weights including around his neck.
- For the first 23m he descended with his arms overhead in the hydrodynamic position. At 23 metres he brought his arms down beside his body.
- He did not start freefalling until 45 metres but then did double kicks every 10 metres or so until 92 metres. From 92 metres to 130m he was completely freefalling.
- His descent took about 2 minutes 12 seconds and his speed was 1.01 metres per second. The tag went onto his left thigh using his left hand.
- His speed on accent is considerably faster at 1.26 metres per second. His arms were in the hydrodynamic position over his heads once he got the tag. Small strong kicks both ways (in downward and upward phases) until about 50m when the amplitude of his kicks became bigger.
- First rescue diver at 40m. Floated to top at about 9m with the arms down beside his body.
What are the implications of this dive?
- His freefall appears quite late in the descent phase of the dive at nearly 50 metres. I assume this is a trade off between speed and conservation of oxygen to reach terminal velocity faster and increase descent speed. This is shown by the addition of double kicks every 10 metres or so (which might also help in body streamlining). This suggests world record dives will delay freefalling with more kicks to increase descent speeds.
- His overall or average speed of performance is typical of elite freedivers in this discipline at 1.10 metres per second. However, clearly his speed on ascent is much faster with small amplitude but fast monofin kicks in both the downward and upward phases of the kick. This suggest elite freedivers will emphasise fast ascents especially on the first 2/3 of the ascent.
- A 4 minute dive time is largely an anaerobic performance. Alexey must be experiencing tremendous lactic acid accumulation in his legs. Alexey appears to have big strong legs. This suggests work on muscle strength and anaerobic endurance in the legs and core muscles (where monofin kicks originate from).
- Alexey has his arms beside his body for most of the descent and only has his arms overhead when he is kicking hard. This suggests keep arms beside the body for most of the descent and especially once you start freefalling.
- It is dark at 130 metres. He is not using fluid goggles. I think a torch serves two purposes. Firstly, it helps in line orientation especially during freefall. Secondly, I’m sure a torch helps in finding the tag at these depths even though there is a light at the base plate. This suggests the importance of using a torch for deeper dives.
- Like all good freedivers Alexey relaxed and floated to the surface from about the 10 metre mark. This suggests the continuing importance of this technique to conserve oxygen and reduce the possibility of “shallow water” blackout.
- Alexey uses no additional weight to reduce buoyancy shows his uses a relatively thin wetsuit and has good lean body mass (more muscle which helps in sinking). This means he does not need to use a neck weight which is common among elite freedivers. However, not using any neck weights means this might also facilitate equalisation and mouthfill procedures. This suggests increasing lean body mass will reduce the need for cumbersome neck weights and might enhance equalisation.
I hope this analysis helps in not only understanding the considerable technical aspects of Alexey Molchanov’s world record dive to 130m but provides a guide to the training required by such elite athletes to break world records and to dive increasingly deeper.