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Herbert Nitsch Speaks To About His Recovery From His 2012 Dive Attempt

For world-class freediver Herbert Nitsch, recovering from his fateful June 2012 dive has been a long, slow process.

Speaking to a packed room at the recent Blue Wild Ocean Adventure Expo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Nitsch spoke about being confined to a wheelchair for the first six months of his convalescence before taking his health back into his own hands.

“I realized the doctors’ treatments . . . wasn’t the best,” he said. “They didn’t know what they were doing, so I figured no one else knows my body better than me. . . . Very soon I didn’t take any medicine any more.”

Last June, one year to the day after his unsuccessful no-limits dive attempt to 800 feet, Nitsch released a statement in which he said:

I started a strict regime of super foods, healthy living, exercise and listening to my own intuition (even if this often meant disregarding well-meaning advice from doctors and experts). I adopted the same attitude that I always used with freediving: pushing boundaries, further exploring the human potential and setting new limits where we thought we already knew everything.

One of the ironies of his hospital stay was the food, according to Nitsch.

“Hospital food is insane. They give you all kinds of medicine but they give you crap to eat,” he said to laughter in the Blue Wild exhibition hall. “That’s beyond belief, and I don’t know why actually. Seems obvious, so I found out that the sooner I leave [the hospital] the better.

“At the moment I wasn’t so sure, but in retrospect I find it was the best decision ever,” he continued.

Nitsch talked about going back into the water six months ago, as well as starting gym workouts, “doing some aerobic exercise, just trying the best to get back in shape, because a fit body works better, and also has effect on the brain.” 

He also noted that his handwriting was one of the neurological functions that hadn’t recovered completely. “Please don’t ask for an autograph,” Nitsch told the audience with a smile.

After his lecture, got a chance to briefly talk with Herbert:

How’s your recovery?

Well for sure, as you see yourself, it can be quicker. It’s very slow, but it’s getting where it should be.

How’s your handwriting [which he brought up during his talk]?

I don’t (laughs). It’s basically not so good. But also I don’t practice it because there are a lot of other things that are more important than writing in life. Because nowadays you don’t need to write anymore anyway. The only thing I need to write is a signature and filling out landing cards.

Do you see yourself going back and doing another attempt like that (last June, he’d written in his statement that “competitive free diving is not likely to be part of the future”)?

At the end of this spring, I’m going to Crete to do some training and see how I feel going deep.

What kind of training do you plan on doing?

I’m planning to do a mix of constant weight and free immersion just to play it safe and see how it feels to do 100 meters or so. Shallow.

What kind of training are you doing now? You talked during your speech about doing cardio, basic swimming as well?

I don’t like chlorine, so in Austria yeah it’s winter now. So no, no water training, but last summer I was in Greece doing some Skandalopetra diving, and before that I’ve been to Palau for snorkeling — shallow, 30/40 meters, just trying . . . not to starve oxygen or lose the healing effect.

Many thanks to Herbert Nitsch for taking time from a very hectic day at Blue Wild to talk to Nitsch South Pacific Jellyfish

Herbert Nitsch South Pacific


John Liang
John Liang
John Liang is the News Editor at He first got the diving bug while in High School in Cairo, Egypt, where he earned his PADI Open Water Diver certification in the Red Sea off the Sinai Peninsula. Since then, John has dived in a volcanic lake in Guatemala, among white-tipped sharks off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and other places including a pool in Las Vegas helping to break the world record for the largest underwater press conference.


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