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.

On June 6th, 2012, Herbert surpassed his own record with a No Limit dive to 253.2 meters (830.8 feet), but suffered from decompression sickness.

Herbert can hold his breath for more than 9 minutes and has set 32 world records in all of the 8 recognized disciplines – unrivaled achievements in the freediving history. He holds an additional world record in the traditional Greek freediving discipline Skandalopetra.

Unlike other elite freedivers Herbert is self-taught. He is a pioneer in every way. He developed his own freediving techniques over the years, a methodology that largely differs from the traditional styles. He brought many novel ideas and innovations to the sport, that meanwhile have become common elements in the current freediving scene.

High safety standards and detailed planning are always part of every dive Herbert makes. Herbert is a retired airline Captain of the Austrian Airlines Group, a profession where check-lists and worst case scenarios were on his daily schedule. This risk-avoiding and high-security attitude helps him to achieve his ambitious goals within freediving. Furthermore he is keen about every technical detail and design of his equipment. Together with his international technical team he designs and produces highly innovative gear with hydrodynamic shapes and lighter materials. He is currently designing an oceangoing-eco-boat and submarine to further explore the oceans at large.

Herbert´s motives are about the unknown, about crossing physiological boundaries, achieving goals that seem beyond the limits; overcoming mental challenges; and exploring, understanding, controlling and fine-tuning his own body and its bodily functions (heart rate, blood pressure, blood distribution, oxygen intake and consumption, understanding energy efficiency, etc.).

Herbert is one of the few freediving athletes who cooperates with a scientific advisory board and medical doctors. Very little scientific research has been done so far on the physiological effects of freediving, especially as deep as Herbert is diving. His lung volume has been measured to be 10 Liters, which Herbert can expand to 15 Liters with a special technique called “packing” or “buccal pumping” (healthy adult males have a lung capacity of 6 Liters).

In December of 2013, Herbert proudly joined the Ocean Advocacy Advisory Board of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a wonderful group of motivated people whose aim is to keep the oceans and its wildlife clean and pristine.

Print and TV media world wide have covered Herbert’s freediving adventures. He has graced the pages of Red Bulletin, Men’s Health, GQ, Playboy, ESPN, Spiegel, Apnea, Deep, Tauchen, Stern, Paris Match, L’Equipe, HOME, Profil and others. He has appeared on various TV shows. Documentaries were made for CBS 60 Minutes Sports, and for RedBull/Stern TV.

Sponsors included Breitling watches, Canon cameras, Trygons freedive equipment and FilmOne productions, SeaCam cameras, Subal underwater housing, UK-Germany underwater housing, Suunto depth gages, SubaPro freedive equipment, SeaBob scooters.

His unique freediving career started with a single coincidence. In the late nineties, while Herbert was on the way to a scuba dive safari, his diving equipment got lost somewhere in transit. So Herbert went snorkeling instead of scuba diving during the entire vacation. There Herbert discovered his natural talent for freediving very quickly. He was fascinated by the nature of this sport and was progressing fast. After freediving for two weeks only, he was two meters short of the Austrian National record.


Herbert Nitsch is known to be an independent thinker and pioneer in freediving. His freediving techniques are innovative and controversial, yet they have proven to be very effective and efficient.
He has explored ocean depths in self-designed high-tech sleds, deeper then anyone has gone before on one breath.

Herbert Nitsch - Airline Pilot
Herbert Nitsch


Herbert Nitsch is a trained airline pilot and has worked as Captain for Tyrolean Airways for 15 years.

Prior to that he worked as Co-Pilot for owners of private planes and business jets.

Since 2010 Herbert has focussed his career fully on freediving.

Herbert Nitsch - Fluid goggles

He brought many novel ideas to the freediving scene:

- Neck weight

  1. -Special deep-diving contact lenses

  2. -Pipe-mask

  3. -Fluid goggles

Herbert introduced existing equipment for the first time into freediving competitions, and while pursuing world records:

  1. -Monofin for dynamic apnea and deep diving. The first ever world record in an apnea depth discipline was set in 2001 by Herbert in CWT.

  2. -Double lift bag for no limit diving

  3. -Counterweight for no limit freediving.

Herbert was the first to use specific safety features in freediving competitions such as:

  1. -making a decompression stop and slow ascends during various disciplines.

  2. -re-descending after a deep dive with pure oxygen to recompense for any possible decompression illness related issues.

He designed and invented new equipment for No Limit deep diving:

  1. -Carbon-covered solid-foam sleds without liftbags

  2. -Automated sled with manual override speed control. This is a streamlined carbon sled with airtanks for ascending instead of lift bags.

  3. -Multi engine electric winch with back-up instead of a counterweight system.

As only freediver sofar, Herbert uses a self designed and novel equalization technique for his no-limit dives:

  1. -EQUEX = Equalization Extension Tool.

  2. -This is a large size Coke bottle with a hose attached to Herbert’s mouth.

  3. -During a deep no limit dive, when descending on one breath, he stops at 10m depth temporarily.

  4. -He then blows all of his air from the lungs plus all of the air from negative packing into the Coke bottle.

  5. -This air which is used for equalizing ears and sinuses while descending to greater depths.

Many of his innovations and introductions are now common elements in the freediving scene.

Herbert Nitsch - Monofin
Herbert Nitsch - EQUEX


Neck weight

Pipe mask

Fluid goggles

Monofin for apnea

EQUEX  and carbon-covered solid-foam sled
(700 foot record)

Herbert NItsch - Yachtsman
Herbert Nitsch - Neck weight
Herbert NItsch - Multi engine winch

Multi engine winch

(800 foot record)

Being an avid sailor and windsurfer from an early age onward, Herbert feels at home above sealevel on the oceans too.

His father, Gerhard, owned a Lagoon 42 catamaran for many years, and together they ventured the Caribbean seas.

Over the past years Herbert has skippered additional catamarans such as a Lagoon 47 and a beautiful Nautitech 47.

The latter was used for the 2012 record. Herbert and his team sailed it from Athens to Santorini, while pit-stopping along the way to spearfish for the evening meal.


After first being introduced to spearfishing a few years ago in Greece, Herbert has been spearfishing at different locations around the planet. Herbert has gained great respect for the fishermen who earn their living with spearfishing while freediving.

Automated sled with
manual override speed control
(800 foot record)

Herbert NItsch - Pipe mask