THIS IS A TRAGIC TALE OF A NEW SPORT, egos and the dangers of information spreading unchallenged through the Internet.
Based around the first death in competitive freediving, which occurred in 2013, it portrays the sport (or rather a micro-culture within a small group of competitive freedivers) as a hotbed of sun, sea, sex and “shattered limits”.
This non-fiction book portrays competitive freediving as a playground for well-off thirtysomethings to travel, meet up and compete with each other around the world.
The timelines are quite confusing, and this is not helped by Adam’s awkward writing style. I’m not sure that the detailed descriptions of every single one of Nick Mevoli’s tall, slender, athletic girlfriends, lovers and flings enhance the story, but they certainly add to the image the author paints of a slightly immature diver who has regular temper tantrums and refuses to listen to medical advice, his friends or (more importantly) his own body.
Throughout the book the author implies that all freedivers are obsessed with competing and pushing themselves to near-death experiences, an image as absurd as suggesting that everyone who goes for a run has aspirations to be the next Usain Bolt or Mo Farah.
The reality of the sport is that the vast majority of freedivers participate and train for the chance to experience nature, for personal development or for simple enjoyment.
In 2010 I published a book outlining the dangers of a freediving equalisation technique called mouthfill, as well as extolling the virtues of thoracic (chest) flexibility.
So I was upset to find the first chapter of One Breath pushing the message that “everyone ignored or didn’t know the dangers of mouthfill”, but pleasantly surprised as the latter half of the book suggests that the upper echelons of competitive freediving have finally begun to accept that thoracic flexibility is the key to safe deep freediving.
Interestingly, although coughing blood is unfairly portrayed throughout the book as commonplace among freedivers (and portrayed as normal for top-level competitive divers), it is revealed in the last chapter that many freedivers, for example the book’s hero William Trubridge, have never coughed blood after a dive.
Adam's “revelation” that the best freediver in the world has never had a “lung squeeze” proves that the risks involved in this beautiful sport can be seriously reduced when using the correct training ideology.
If you’re interested in the events that led to the first death in competitive freediving, read this book. If you’re interested in freediving, find yourself a local club or a decent instructor.
Marcus Greatwood

Corsair
ISBN: 9781472152022
Hardback, 336pp, £20