The Blurry Age (Before 1930)

From the earliest times to just before the invention of the fin. Goggles are virtually unknown outside Japan. Some early cultures made lenses out of polished turtle shells and used palm leaves and tar for fins. Most spearfishing is done from the surface.

1800s - Japanese Ama divers begin two centuries of freediving.

1913 - Stotti Georghios retrieves an anchor in 200 feet (61 m) of water.

The Goggle Age (1930-1949)

The invention of the fin and the use of goggles starts to become widespread. Early European "gogglers" and "sinkers" explore the Mediterranean (Hans Haas, Jacques Cousteau, and Guy Gilpatrick). Freediving/spearfishing clubs organize in California.

1933 - Louis M. DeCorlieu patents "Lifesaving and Swimming Propelling Device", aka fins.

1933 - The San Diego Bottoms Scratchers forms (Glen Orr, Jack Prodonovich and Wally Potts among others).

1938 - Guy Gilpatrick publishes The Compleat Goggler .

1943 - Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan invent SCUBA gear.

1949 - National Geographic estimates that there are roughly 8000 freedivers in the United States.

The Golden Age (1950-1969)

The mask, fins and snorkel develop into a mature state, resembling modern SCUBA equipment.

1950 - Cressi manufactures a mask that encloses the nose and provides finger pockets, allowing the mask to be equalized as well as the ears.

1950 - The International Underwater Spearfishing Association forms.

1951 - Skin Diver Magazine begins publishing.

1953 - Neoprene wetsuits become commercially available.

The Modern Age (1970-Present)

Long blade fins appear. Further advances in technology are evolutionary including carbon fibre fins and advanced neoprene wetsuits. Bluewater hunting gear (Tuna guns, sophisticated terminal gear) is available commercially.

1970 - The first long-bladed freediving fins appear.

1999 - The RetroSub Freedivers form.

The History of Ear Clearing

For the pre-20th century Greek sponge-divers, equalizing of the ears was not necessary. These freedivers had burst their eardrums since early childhood, on purpose, through diving without equalization. The perforated eardrum would not heal, since they would continue diving every day. This was thought to be a small price to pay for the ability to earn a decent living via the sponge trade. This involved risks from infections and also balance problems, but it didn't seem to affect them significantly.

In general it is not clear if these early sponge divers of the Aegean knew about equalization techniques. Diving techniques were considered a trade secret and were carried from one generation to the next without much information leaking out to the competition. Even if they knew how to equalize, they would still prefer the above technique, since the amount of air lost to ear equalization is not trivial, and compromises their working depths. This fact alone explains the depths reached by Stathis Hatzis in Karpathos island, which were admittedly no less than 80 meters and probably closer to 90 m. since the bottom was at an angle, and he did several dives to locate the anchor.