Underwater Sports

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Underwater Sports


a type of sport that includes swimming and diving for speed, underwater orienteering, resort diving, and sport shooting with special equipment. Underwater sports done for speed include swimming underwater with a scuba tank, swimming on the surface with fins, and swimming underwater with fins (for distance). Competitions are held in swimming pools for various distances: 15, 25, and 50 m for diving with fins, 100, 200, 400, and 800 m for underwater swimming, and 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,500, 1,850, and more than 3,000 m (marathon) for swimming on the surface with fins. There are also various relays.

Underwater orienteering consists of two basic events (qualification combined event)— the zone event and the reference-point event— in which the athlete, equipped with a scuba tank, swims a specified distance, changing directions at assigned points. In the zone event, he orients himself using instruments, while in the reference-point event he searches for anchored buoys. There are also group events involving practical elements, such as the lifting and carrying of weights and the installation and removal of buoys. In evaluating results, speed and accuracy of orientation are taken into account. Competitions are held in open bodies of water.

Resort diving involves partcipation in expeditions for the purpose of studying various bodies of water. The preparedness of a resort diver is evaluated by the number and degree of complexity of expeditions in which he has participated. Complexity is judged by depth of dive, the nature of existing currents, and clarity and temperature of the water. The resort diver must also meet certain standard requirements.

Underwater sport shooting involves hitting a stationary or moving target from a specified distance with a spear gun, as well as hunting and spearing a live target (a fish)—spearfishing. In spearfishing, the athlete is underwater with a mask and flippers but without a scuba tank.

The origin of underwater sports dates to the 1920’s and is linked to the appearance of amateur spearfishing groups. Interest in underwater sports grew with the invention of flippers by L. de Corlieu of France in 1933, of a mask that covers the eyes and nose, and of the snorkel by M. Faurier of France in 1938. In the 1950’s, after the invention of the aqualung (1943), underwater sports developed in many countries. In 1959 national federations and amateur clubs of underwater sports united into the World Underwater Federation (Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques, CMAS), and the French scientist J. Cousteau was elected president. In 1973, CMAS united the federations of more than 50 countries.

The development of underwater sports in the USSR is associated with the organization in 1931 of the Society for Water Rescue (OSVOD), which trained scuba divers. In the 1930’s the first atheletic competitions of skin divers were held, and the badge Physical Fitness Expert—Skin Diver was established. Soviet underwater sports developed intensively in the 1950’s. Underwater sports organizations were organized at the Central Maritime Club in 1956 and at other maritime clubs of the All-Union Voluntary Society for Cooperation With the Army, Air Force, and Navy (DOSAAF) in 1957. It was at this time that the production of equipment for underwater sports was begun. Championships of the USSR have been held annually since 1958, and annual competitions for the USSR Cup since 1971. In 1959 the Federation of Underwater Sports of the USSR was created; it joined CMAS in 1965. In 1961 underwater sports were incorporated into the Uniform All-Union Sports Classification, and in 1962, DOSAAF of the USSR began publishing the collection Underwater Sportsman.

Since the 1960’s, Soviet athletes have participated in major international competitions in underwater sports. At the European championships (held annually since 1967 and separately in speed categories and orienteering since 1970), they have won team and individual competitions many times. They have won the European Cup championship three times (held since 1969) in marathon swimming on the surface with fins and have broken world records more than 100 times. As of 1974, 17 records out of 21 registered with CMAS belonged to Soviet athletes. The greatest successes at USSR and European competitions have been achieved by V S. Bardashevich, V. P. Dubrovskii, A. A. Krasnikov, I. E. Kompus, S. N. Men’shikova, N. E. Petukhova, S. M. Tarasov, N. P. Turukalo, A. M. Salmin, and Sh. V. Karapetian.

Since the 1950’s, European championships have been held regularly in spearfishing, but Soviet athletes do not participate. Underwater sports have developed in France, Italy, the German Democratic Republic, the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Spain, and Sweden. Winners and prize recipients of international competitions in underwater sports include F. Verlais-Goujond and J. M. Ollenard (France), D. Meier (German Democratic Republic) and E. Calzoni and C. Spigno (Italy).


Pechatin, A. A., V. D. Surovikin, and V. G. Fadeev. Chelovek pod vo doi, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1967.
Serebrenitskii, P. P. Tekhnika podvodnogo sporta. Leningrad, 1969.
Mazurov, I. V. Podgotovka podvodnogo plotvsa. Moscow, 1972.
Dagan, D. Chelovek v podvodnom mire. Moscow, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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