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Rules and Judging

» Regulations

» Judging 

» Running a Competition

USAA only allows AIDA International Judges Level E and above to participate in actively judging U.S. competitions. All U.S. competitions either meet or exceed AIDA International rules. All US competitions will be AIDA Ranking List capable unless otherwise noted. If you are not a judge, click on the judging link to learn more about becoming one (the process is more simple than you may think). Also, you can help with competitions in many ways other than being a judge. Contact us about volunteer opportunities. E-mail here for volunteer information

USAA believes that competition serves a valuable role in promoting freediving in the US and internationally; while not the only way to promote freediving, competition is a highly visible and media attractive event. As such, USAA believes that the rules and judging are highly important components of any competition. Our ability to continue to offer and support competition is directly tied to the safety and organization of all events. Judges are a critical component of that effort.


AIDA/USAA Regulations or "The Rules" as they are often called during discussions are the backbone of our competitions and records. USAA follows the AIDA Regulations in full.

The rules can be confusing to new competitors. They can make for a tough late night read. However, it is the responsibility of each and every athlete to know the rules prior to participating in a competition. It is not the responsibility of the competition judges to teach athletes the rules. However, most judges will provide very clear direction in regard to rules in their briefing prior to an event beginning. So, pay attention to those briefings.

National Records

The athlete must be a member of USAA and holding a US passport. The athlete may not have competed under the passport of another nation for twelve months prior to the record attempt.  During competitions, no penalties are allowed for a national record to be recognized. However, timing or start penalties may be allowed. At this time, there is no fee associated with national records.  Please contact USAA if there is a question.

Two AIDA judges must be present and judge any national record attempts that occur outside of AIDA Ranking List Competitions. These judges must be AIDA Level E or above. To be a recognized record, the performance and judging protocols must adhere to the rules established by AIDA International.  The following exceptions may be allowed.

No announcement is required prior to the record attempt.

No anti doping test is required.

Judges do not need to be appointed by USAA.

No video is required to be delivered to USAA. Although, we would absolutely love to have it. (The judges can require anything they feel they need to perform their job as judges and insure that the regulations have been fulfilled.)

There is no requirement for prerequisite performances. However, USAA would encourage and hope that athletes will make sure that they have performed close to the record prior to the attempt as to not waste the time of staff or endanger their safety personnel or themselves.

USAA does not dictate what must be done at a National Record event. We simply ask that the AIDA judge require what they need to perform their duty as judges and insure that any reported performance to USAA is a valid performance under the AIDA rules with the above exceptions. A US athlete that has a valid performance that exceeds a national record will be recognized as the National Record holder upon receipt of official results of the performance by one of the judges to USAA. E-mail Here

Performances realized during any AIDA Ranking List Competitions that exceed a National Record will be recognized as a National Record with verification sent to USAA by one of the judges or the organizer of the competition or the performance appearance on the AIDA Ranking List. Athletes are encouraged to let USAA know their plans prior to a national record attempt so support of press efforts can be coordinated.

Current AIDA Rules 12 (pdf)


Anti Doping Resources Click HERE


Competition Rules for Dummies.

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Judging serves several purposes. The judge is present at a competition or record to help validate the athlete's performance, but are not there to run the event or perform as an organizer. Judges are required to make sure that the event meets the required regulations.

Judging requires objectivity, willingness to make clear and concise judgments according to the current rules and regulations, and an understanding that judging is at its core, a service to the performance and should be viewed as such. A judge serves the organization, the performance, the sport, and AIDA in all they do.

There are three athletes involved in record attempts: The athlete that is attempting the record, the athlete whose record is being challenged, and the future athlete that will have to attempt to break the new record. The judge has a duty to all of these athletes.

When judging a competition the judge is responsible for being objective and judging to the regulations regulating that competition. The judge must apply their decisions in as unbiased a manner as possible. The credibility of an event can be and is frequently tied to the performance of the judges.

In any event, the benefit of the doubt goes to the athlete. Judges, though only human, make concerted efforts to not allow their own opinions to color their decisions.

Becoming a judge requires the following, relatively simple and straightforward steps:

  • Be a functional freediver. (Not exceptional, functional)
  • Age 21 or older.
  • Attend a Judge in Learning Course. Current CPR and First Aid (Can be after JIL course)
  • Experience in a Competition or Record as athlete, coach or safety personnel (Can be after JIL Course)
  • Freediving Rescue Skills

Judges in Learning Course: Click here if interested E-mail Here

Judging is a rewarding and fun experience well worth exploring. This course is designed to train you as an entry-level judge known as an AIDA Level E Judge. An AIDA Lever A Instructor Judge conducts this course. The course usually takes two days and covers all the areas you need to know to become a new judge.

AIDA Regulation for Judges (pdf)

Once you are an AIDA Level E Judge, you will be eligible to submit to judge world records and competitions all over the world. Judges are not paid, however, at world records and world championships your expenses are covered. So, judging can provide a way to travel all over the world.

Running a Competition

For competition announcements to be recognized by USFA, the following information must be submitted to the USFA Board at least 1 month before the competition is to be publically announced.
 - Name of Competition
 - Dates of Competition
 - Depth Limitations and/or Pool Limitations
 - Location of Competition
 - Names of the Judges
 - Names and Credentials of Medical Personal
 - Names of Competition Organizers and  Contact Information
 - Competition Category (Invitational, Open, etc...)
 - Where to get Competition Information (i.e. - website)

Any competition requires the participation of at least two current AIDA judges.

At least two safety divers must be in the water with the athletes during their performances.

At least one videographer must be recording all performances such that the judges can reference the video for resolving disputes.

You will need a timekeeper to keep track of the schedule and to announce the divers' information and countdowns.

You will need an emergency response person qualified for ACLS (Advanced Cardio Life Support). They must have oxygen available for administering as they see fit during the competition for emergencies.

For pool competitions, you will need dedicated pool lanes that are no less than 25 yards in length. Most pools will require you to carry event insurance. Check with the pool to find out their requirements.

For depth competitions you will need to have a line-diving rig equipped with a counter-ballast system for deep water rescue and diver recovery. The bottom plate must be equipped with a camera to record the diver's performances at the deepest part of their dive. All athletes must use a safety lanyard that passes the Judge's inspections.

The competition organizers must collect and store medical authorization forms and AIDA waivers from all attending athletes. The forms must be stored for no less than 2 years.  We recommend 7 years if there is an incident.

The competition organizers must collect and pay per-athlete fees for AIDA international (12 Euros/athlete) and for US Freediving ($10/athlete).

The competition organizers must report the announced performances and the competition results to US Freediving and AIDA International.

The competition organizers must collect performance announcements from the athletes and produce an event schedule for use my the athletes, safety divers and timekeeper.

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