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One Breath By Adam Skolnick

Release date: 12th January, 2016
Publisher: Corsair

List Price: £20.00
Our Price: £15.58
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Though the nearest most of us get to freediving is a spot of holiday snorkelling a few hundred yards off the coast, Adam Skolnick’s compelling story of this most extreme of extreme sports is likely to inspire bolder folks to dive a little deeper.

Skolnick tells the tale of American freediver Nicholas Mevoli, who, before his untimely death in 2013, sounded like a typical Bohemian character more suited to a Hollywood movie. He occupied a squat in Brooklyn, failed to become an actor, moved into television production, enjoyed talking about espresso and holistic nutrition with a string of girlfriends and insisted upon preserving his ‘chi’ or ‘energy force’.

Once hooked on freediving however, Mevoli pushed himself to almost reckless extremes, becoming the first American to dive beyond 100 metres, winning a silver medal at the 2013 Depth World Championships.

Mevoli’s final dive, into what freedivers call a ‘blue hole’ in the Bahamas, was a descent to 72 metres that killed him. Incredibly, he held his breath for an astonishing 3 minutes 38 seconds, but passed out after surfacing, blood pouring from his mouth. He never regained consciousness.

Until Mevoli’s death, freedivers maintained that going as deep as possible on one breath, while uncomfortable, wouldn’t kill you. In 2012, Hubert Nitsch surfaced partially paralysed having dived more than 253 metres, which most believed was the absolute human diving limit, but a year later, ‘no limits’ freediving was widely banned.

This unlikely sport grew from a bet made in 1949 by an Italian, Raimondo Bucher, who took money off his friends after diving around 30 metres to the bottom of a lake in Capri. Within twenty years, divers were reaching depths of 60 metres or more after they discovered that once they had passed the 20 metre mark, ‘negative buoyancy’ allowed the body to freefall as the pulse slowed and blood flowed only to the places where its presence was absolutely essential.

Nowadays, freedivers use only a weight and, usually, a line of rope to descend, wasting as little oxygen as possible to reach 20 metres. Most use the ‘three-stage mouth fill’ technique, drawing air from the lungs on the way down, using the remaining air to ease the horrendous pressure on their ears. It’s thought that Mevoli got this technique wrong on his last dive, which resulted in his lungs being irreparably damaged.

This is an outstanding, well-written book which offers an insight into what drives people to embrace extreme sports. Irrespective of whether you intend going no further than occasional snorkelling, it’s engrossing stuff, considerably more satisfying than the average sports book.


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