Competition Surface Protocols

Recently, while out with a few freedivers, during a conversation about CMAS competitions, the most common question that arises is one about surface protocols.

“What is the CMAS surface protocol?”

With the addition of the U.S. Freediving Federation in the U.S., there will be several outdoor competitions that will be sanctioned under CMAS competition rules throughout the year. Since most competitive divers here in the U.S. have become familiar with the AIDA surface protocol, I thought it would be a good blog post to highlight CMAS surface protocol.

If anyone is interested in reviewing the official and highly detailed CMAS Outdoor Competition rules, please make an email request here and the document will be sent to you. This is the official document that is followed for all CMAS sanctioned comps, national and international.

For this blog post, I will provide a high-level overview for ease of understanding.

Start Protocol

1.     Athletes must be present one hour prior to the start at a place defined by technical delegate

2.     30 minutes before the official start, Athletes must check-in with the warm-up judge

3.     Athlete can enter warm-up area within 30 minutes of official start

4.     Athlete will be moved from warm-up area to the starting area, and has 3 minutes to prepare

5.     3-minute countdown will be as follows:

a.     Last 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1.5 minutes, 1 minute, 30s, 20s, 10s, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 |Official Top| +10s, + 20s, +25s, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30.

6.     Athlete can start dive between “Official Top” and “30s.” If airways are not in the water at 30s, the Athlete is disqualified.

End/Surface Protocol

1.     Upon surfacing, and during the count of 20 seconds after emersion, the Athlete MUST:

a.     Give the OK SIGN to the direction of the Technical Delegate or Surface Judge

b.     Stay afloat, holding the vertical line without external assistance

c.     Keep head and airways above the surface of the water


1.     Upon surfacing, Judges will give final decision (White, Yellow, Red card) within 3 minutes

2.     Judges will not move to watch you. You must look at them during surface protocol and give the OK SIGN

3.     Athlete may talk during the start/end surface protocol

4.     No one can assist the Athlete during surface protocol, if so, disqualification

5.     Any verbal help (yelling or otherwise) from Athlete’s coach or teammates, could lead to disqualification

I hope the above is helpful.  If you want the official rules, please write us as mentioned above. And remember, if you want to dive in any CMAS competition, you will need to be a member of your country's official federation.  Go here to register for membership within the USFF.