AIDA Freediving Depth Competition rules Part 1

The White & Yellow Card

Freediving Depth competition Rules explain by VD Freediving


The competition is a few weeks away. You have put body, mind, and soul into your training and feel “above” ready. Ready to get your first white card. Ready to perform at your best. It is your day. You got this.

But competing under stress makes it easy to forget the rules on the “D” Day.

To put even more chances on your side “to go back home in White,” I will explain in this article the Three color cards of an AIDA depth competition and how to avoid Yellow and Red.

I am Anthony, AIDA Instructor Trainer and AIDA judge, and I will be your guide through the fantastic world of The freediving depth competition and its rules.

Let’s dive!!!

The White card

The day before the competition, You will meet with the other competitors, the comp organizer, and the judges. While reading this article, I advise you to write down all the questions you may have and ask them during this pre-competition meeting. Do not be shy. This is what this meeting is for.

To get the “White grail.” You do not need to do a perfect, flawless dive (My standards of a perfect dive are pretty high :)). Nope! You need to stay in the acceptable zone defined by the AIDA rules.

There are three phases of your dive you need to do right.

  • Phase 1. Before the dive
  • Phase 2.During the dive
  • Phase 3.After the dive

1. Before the dive

AIDA depth competition Set up – Illustration taken from the AIDA Judge course manual

After warming up, you will get called to pass from the transition zone to the competition zone. Your coach can be with you. 

First thing first: Hook your lanyard to the line and keep preparing. Focus on yourself and on the task you need to perform. No worries, the judge will give you the countdown. Just follow the instructions.

It will go like this:

2min – 1min30s – 1min – 30s – 20s- 10s- 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – OT ( Official Top)

From the official top, you have 30 seconds to start your dive. The judge will keep counting:

+1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5- 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10 – 20 – 25 – 26 – 27 – 28 – 29 – 30 – Dive canceled

2. During the dive

Of course, the rules will differ depending on your chosen discipline.

  • FIM: Pull down and up. You cannot wear socks or gloves.
  • CWTb: Kick down and up biffins style ( you cannot do a dolphin kick). You can only grab the line in the candy cane zone.
  • CNF: Swin down and up. You can only grab the line in the candy cane zone.
  • CWT: Kick down and up with your monofin. You can only grab the line in the candy cane zone.

During the freefall, no matter the discipline, you can touch the line and let it slide between your fingers as a guide, but you cannot break or stop.

Using the line as a guide – The illustration is taken from the AIDA Judge course manual

3. After the dive

It is surface protocol time!!! 

You have 15 seconds to execute the SP and need to keep your airways out of the water from surfacing until the judge gives you your card (30 seconds).

The surface protocole:

  • Step 1: Start by removing your nose clip. This step starts the surface protocol. 
  • Step 2: Look at the judge and make an OK sign with your finger. Use the top of your thumb and connect it with the top of another finger.
  • Step 3: Keep looking at the judge and say: “I AM OK”

Once You have begun the removal of your facial equipment, you may not take any additional action until you have said: I AM OK.

Before Step 1 and after Step 3, you can dance salsa if you feel too :), just keep your mouth above the water. In between…Only Do Step 2.

Most judges will allow you to swipe your face once during your SP, but that is also a question you should ask during the pre-comp meeting.

Remember that judges are humans and can make mistakes. You can protest afterward (we will talk about this later) if you are unhappy with any of the decisions. 

One thing important to remember: If your performance has been disturbed, for example, by a safety diver, or if you think the organization failed to provide you with the proper condition for your dive, you should protest to the judges immediately after your performance. If valid, The protest will grant you a restart.

The Yellow card

The Yellow card means “penalty.” Points will be deducted from your performance score. Usually, your score is calculated by allowing 1 point per meter you have dived (ex: 64 meters FIM = 64 points). However, it can be different if there are mixed disciplines. In this case, the organizer will explain the point calculation during the meeting before the competition.

A depth competition counts five penalties:

  1. Early start
  2. Under AP
  3. Lanyard
  4. Grab
  5. Tag

1. Early Start

If your start diving before the OT, you will get a yellow card, and 1 point will be deducted per unit of 5s.

20s to OT = 4 units of 5s = 4 points

15s to OT = 3 units of 5s = 3 points

10s to OT = 2 units of 5s = 2 points

5s to OT = 1 units of 5s = 1 point

Ex: If you start diving 9s before your OT, you will lose 2 points.

If you start 1s before the OT, you will lose 1 point.

2. Under AP

AP means Announced Performance. Before the competition day, you must tell the jury how deep you will dive ( AP).

If you turn early, the judges will check the dive computer and deduct 1 point per meter.

Ex: Your AP is 60 meters, but you turn at 53.9 (which will be counted as 53. I know what you think, but that is the rule: in depth disciplines, the performance is rounded down to the nearest point). So you will get 7 points penalty (60-53), and you will also get one more point out of your score because you did not get the tag. Total penalty = 8 points.

An early turn can cost a lot of points, so be careful with your announced performance (AP).

3. Lanyard

You cannot remove your lanyard (except for safety reasons) during your dive. It will cost you 10 points. The safety team will check if your lanyard is attached before your dive. 

But here is one piece of advice: Do not use a lanyard with this mechanical quick pin release. I have seen many times the lanyard opening involuntarily. It puts you at risk and can cost you a white card. 

Freediving Lanyard with a quick pin release

4. Grab

Grabbing means stopping or breaking. Each time you grab the line, a 5 points penalty will be deducted from your score. Usually, athletes grab the line to stop because of a sticky equalization. Twisting the line with the lanyard will also be considered a grab. How do the judges know you grab the line? The first part of the descent, they are watching you, then they will check the bottom camera. Be aware that a white card can become yellow (or red) if they see you stopping outside of the candy cane on the video.

AIDA Freediving depth competition- the forbidden grab – the illustration has be taken from the AIDA judge course manual

5. Tag

If you are surfacing without the tag, you will get 1 point penalty.

Of course, this makes sense for an early turn. But it also applies if you get to the bottom, grab the tag, and lose it on the way up.

Ex: AP 60m – RP 60m but no tag – total point 59 and a yellow card

VD Freediving’s student diving to 55m and grabbing the tag during the “Depth Squad” training


I hope this will help you to prepare for your competition. If you have questions after reading these lines, remember to write them down and ask them during the pre-comp meeting.

I wish you all the best and more for your Competition. Dive deep, stay safe, and enjoy.

Part 2 is right here: The RED card and Protest.