Unraveling the Mystery: The Disappearance of Free Diving Queen Natalia Molchanova

Unraveling the Mystery: The Disappearance of Free Diving Queen Natalia Molchanova
Incident LocationDiver Full Name
Spain, Balearic IslandsNatalia Molchanova

This is the story of a multiple world record holder and the former president of the Russian Freedive Federation, Natalia Molchanova. She was regarded as the world’s greatest freediver but mysteriously disappeared while giving private free diving lessons on an island in Spain.

Early Life and Motherhood

Natalia Molchanova was born on May 8, 1962. From a very young age, she began training to be a competitive swimmer. However, when she was around 20 years old, she decided to semi-retire to start a family. Natalia proved to be a dedicated and loving mother to her two children, Oksana and Alexi. As Alexi grew up, he followed in his mother’s footsteps and became an accomplished world champion freediver in his own right. Despite dedicating 20 years to being a caring mother, Natalia’s passion for the water never faded.

Transition to Freediving and Career Achievements

At the age of 40, Natalia decided to resume her training and transition from swimming to freediving. Her achievements extended beyond her skills in the water; she held a PhD in pedagogical science and served as an associate professor at the Russian State University of Physical Culture, Sport, and Tourism. Her knowledge and expertise in the field were highly regarded.

After some time, Natalia found a new role as a freediving instructor at the Russian State University, sharing her vast experience and knowledge with aspiring free divers, inspiring and guiding them on their path to success in the sport. Notably, her son Alexi also made a name for himself as a prominent freediving competitor, following in his mother’s footsteps once again.

Record-Breaking Journey

Natalia’s journey in freediving began with the 2003 Russian Championships in Moscow, where she made her mark by setting a National Record. Soon after, she astonished everyone with two Russian national records in static apnea and dynamic apnea. But she didn’t stop there; in only her second competition, the Sony Freediver Classic Open in Cyprus, she achieved a remarkable world record in dynamic apnea, reaching an impressive 492 feet.

As 2004 rolled in, Natalia continued to shine, resetting her own dynamic apnea world record, this time reaching an even greater distance of 508 feet. She also decided to shift her focus from pool records to depth records, collecting a series of European Continental records along the way. However, it was 2005 that Natalya truly soared to new heights, accomplishing an astounding feat by setting nine world records in six different disciplines of freediving in a single year.

Consistent Excellence and Milestones

Throughout her career, Natalia proved to be a consistent and exceptional performer, continuously setting new records. In the year 2006, she achieved an impressive feat, setting three world records and winning the gold medal in the Team World Championships. The following year, 2007, she outdid herself again, securing three more world records to her name.

A significant moment in Natalya’s journey occurred during the 2007 Freediving World Championships held in Maribor, Slovenia. Her outstanding performance in the static discipline not only won her the championship but also surpassed the winning male gold medal time, showcasing her exceptional skills and talents.

Continued Success and Tragic Disappearance

As she ventured into the year 2008, Natalya continued to shine brightly, adding to her list of achievements. The year 2009 proved to be no different, with three more world records under her belt, solidifying her position as one of the top free divers in the world.

In 2010, she achieved a significant milestone by reaching a depth of 410 feet in the variable weight discipline, surpassing the record held by Tanya Streeter for seven years. Natalia’s impressive record-breaking journey continued in 2011 and 2012, with more depth world records falling under her name.

In August 2015, Natalia traveled to the Balearic Islands to give private free diving lessons to a Russian property developer named Pavel Tayo and at least one other person. During one of her solo dives after the training session, she went down but didn’t resurface, despite having gone to a depth of around 114 feet in favorable conditions and without any apparent issues.

Search Efforts and Conclusion

The crew onboard the yacht immediately notified the Spanish Coast Guard and initiated a search, but unfortunately, despite extensive efforts, Natalia could not be found. The search was halted due to the challenging conditions of the area, including strong currents, heavy boat traffic, and rapidly dropping water temperatures.

Thus, the mysterious disappearance of the free diving queen, Natalia Molchanova, remains an unsolved and tragic event, leaving the freediving community in awe of her exceptional talents and achievements and mourning the loss of one of the sport’s greatest icons.

Speculations on Natalia’s Disappearance

Even the most skilled divers could face difficulties in such a challenging environment. The fate of Natalia is still a mystery, and there’s no definite information about what happened to her in the deep waters. We can only guess what might have occurred. One possibility is that the strong currents in that area might have carried her away. Another speculation is that she might have lost consciousness during her dive, which could have led to her unfortunate situation. Usually, free divers have spotters underwater to ensure their safety during the dive. However, Natalia didn’t have any spotters with her because she was the only experienced diver in her group. This lack of spotters could have made things more challenging and uncertain. The exact reason for Natalia’s passing remains unknown, leaving everyone with unanswered questions.

The Beauty of Freediving

Freediving offers a unique way to experience the underwater world. If you’ve ever swam underwater and held your breath, you had a taste of what freediving is like. With freediving, you can dive deeper, stay submerged for longer, and feel like you’re truly part of the ocean. It’s a wonderful way to connect with the sea and explore the depths with minimal impact on the environment. For some people, freediving is a personal challenge, but for many, its real fascination lies in the peace and tranquility it brings to their busy lives. However, despite its apparent simplicity, freediving requires knowledge about safety and how the body reacts to underwater pressure. Without proper training, a freediver risks ear, sinus, and lung injuries, blackouts, and even the possibility of drowning. So it’s crucial to learn the necessary skills and safety measures before attempting freediving.

The Challenges of Deep Water Freediving

Professional freedivers use their body’s diving adaptations to go to depths of over 656 feet in a single breath. These adaptations, known as the diving reflexes, help save oxygen by reducing blood flow to the arms and legs, preserving it for the vital organs. Without any breathing apparatus, freedivers can swim to extreme depths underwater, with the current record being 702 feet. Champions in freediving can hold their breath for incredibly long periods, with the record for women being nine minutes and for men being 11 minutes. However, the challenges faced by freedivers in the ocean are significant due to rapid pressure differences. Just descending 32 feet into the ocean subjects you to an additional atmosphere of pressure, which is twice the pressure you experience at the surface. For every additional 32 feet of depth, the pressure increases by another atmosphere. This makes freediving a uniquely challenging experience, as the pressure of the deep water compresses the body, reduces air spaces within, and changes how gases behave in the bloodstream and impact the nervous system.

Different Approaches to Freediving – Depth Disciplines

There are different approaches to freediving, known as depth disciplines. Let’s examine some of the major ones:

Constant Weight (CWT)

CWT is the most common type of freediving, where the diver goes up and down vertically along a dive rope, using a monofin or bi-fins and/or arm movements. The rope cannot be used for pulley, and the diver can only hold on to it once while turning at the bottom to prepare for the ascent.

Constant Weight Without Fins (CNF)

CNF is more challenging, as divers rely solely on their muscle strength to propel themselves down and back up. They usually descend using a breaststroke technique. Like in CWT, the diver can’t pull on the rope or change the weight used.

Free Immersion (FIM)

FIM is a lot like constant weight without fins, as the diver can’t change the weight used during the dive and can’t use any propulsion equipment. However, in FIM, the diver can pull on the guide rope to go down and come back up. It’s seen as a more relaxing discipline.

Variable Weight (VWT)

Variable weight allows freedivers to change the amount of weight used during both going down and coming up. They can use a sled to go down and then come back up to the surface with the help of a monofin, bi-fin, or by using their upper body strength to pull themselves up the rope.

No Limits (NLT)

No limits is the deepest type of freediving. The diver uses a sled or other heavy weight to quickly go down in the water, then comes back up using a buoyancy device like a balloon or a vest with inflatable compartments. Since the freediver doesn’t need to use their energy to go down and up, this discipline mainly relies on having a good Equalization technique and being able to handle the pressure.

The mysterious disappearance of Natalia Molchanova remains a sad event that leaves many unanswered questions in the world of freediving. Her exceptional talents and achievements in the sport continue to be celebrated and remembered. Freediving offers a unique and challenging way to explore the underwater world, but it’s essential to approach it with proper training, safety measures, and a deep understanding of the physiological effects of deep-water diving.


What happened to Natalia Molchanova?

Natalia Molchanova, the world-renowned free diving queen, mysteriously disappeared during a solo dive in the deep waters off the Balearic Islands, Spain.

Was Natalia Molchanova an accomplished athlete?

Yes, Natalia Molchanova was a multiple world record holder and the former president of the Russian Freedive Federation. She was regarded as the world’s greatest freediver.

How many world records did Natalia Molchanova set?

Throughout her career, Natalia set an astounding 41 world records in freediving, making her one of the most exceptional and accomplished free divers in history.

What happened during the tragic incident?

While giving private free diving lessons on an island in Spain, Natalia Molchanova went down for a solo dive and did not resurface. Despite extensive search efforts, she could not be found.

What could have led to Natalia’s disappearance?

The exact reason for Natalia’s passing remains unknown, but speculations suggest strong currents in the area or the possibility of her losing consciousness during the dive. She didn’t have any spotters with her, which could have added to the challenges.

Patrick Broin
Patrik, a seasoned cave diver, shares his first-hand experiences and expert insights on the treacherous world of cave diving accidents.
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