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Herbert Nitsch - I felt like a child again

Herbert Nitsch is an icon of freediving. He was an active pilot and airline captain for Austria Airlines Group for 15 years, but beyond altitude, reaching the depths was of great importance. He discovered freediving by accident when his diving equipment was lost in air transport. The entire trip, during a diving safari, he dived
Published: November 21, 2017 - 09:36
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 15:56
Herbert Nitsch – I felt like a child again

Herbert Nitsch is an icon of freediving. He was an active pilot and airline captain for Austria Airlines Group for 15 years, but beyond altitude, reaching the depths was of great importance. He discovered freediving by accident when his diving equipment was lost in air transport.

The entire trip, during a diving safari, he dived without cylinders. At the end of the 10-day trip, he was already able to dive to a depth of just 2 metres less than the current Austrian national record. After training according to his ideas for many years, he achieved the ability to hold 15 litres of air in his lungs, when the average volume of an adult male is about 6-7 litres. He set a total of 33 world records in 8 disciplines. By free diving to a depth of 214 metres in 2007, he set a record and to date no one has dived deeper on a single breath, not including himself.

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On 6 June 2012, Herbert attempted to improve his own record and planned a dive to a depth of 253 metres. To this end, he and his team constructed a state-of-the-art structure called a “sled” (“lift”), which was to take him to the designated depth and bring him back to the surface. He reached the intended depth, but the return was not carried out as planned. As a result of not following the safety plan, he suffered a number of injuries as a consequence of the DCS and lost some of his memory, speech and mobility.

After the accident, Herbert required intensive therapy. He had to re-learn how to use his body and speaking his native language was more difficult than speaking English. At first, the doctors did not give him much chance of recovering fully. He decided to treat himself, and in order to raise funds for his long rehabilitation, a feature-length documentary was filmed entitled “Zurück aus der Tiefefe”. “Zurück aus der Tiefe” (“Return from the Deep”) telling the story of the preparation for the fatal deep dive and his recovery.

After 2 years he was able to move around on his own and today he can speak freely about what happened exactly underwater. He doesn’t plan to take part in any more competitions, but breath-hold diving still gives him great pleasure and, as he says, I feel better underwater than on the surface.

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About author

Marcin Pawełczyk
Marcin’s journey with diving has been an adventure. Starting as a recreational diver, he soon found himself drawn to the fascinating stories and mysteries of Baltic wrecks. After gaining experience, Marcin decided to go beyond just leisurely exploration and took his training up a notch by completing the TMX course, allowing him to explore even deeper and uncover the secrets of inaccessible places. His next challenge has been cave diving, where he is honing his skills to become a certified diver. Not content to simply take in the breathtaking beauty of underwater life, Marcin has also embraced underwater photography since 2018, capturing stunning shots that bring these worlds alive for those who are unable to experience them first-hand. Marcin’s passion for the underwater has taken him far and is sure to continue doing so as he dives into new depths and captures breathtaking images.
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