“It’s interesting how the ocean can attract us, repel us, nourish us, and hurt us—I don’t think there’s anything else quite like it.”
Imagine plunging headfirst hundreds of feet below the ocean surface — undulating ever further downward to a place where light cannot penetrate; and life hangs in the balance of a quickly diminishing singular breath.
Competitive freediving—a sport built on diving as deep as possible on a single breath—tests the limits of human ability in the most hostile environment on earth. The unique and eclectic breed of individuals who freedive at the highest level regularly reach such depths that their organs compress; and one mistake could kill them.
To freedive is to flirt with death, driven by an almost inexplicable spiritual quest to go further, deeper and beyond the imagined limits of human capability.
But freediving is also an opportunity to be free. It’s a search for the authentic. An opportunity to commune with the infinite.
Today on the podcast I sit down with author and adventure journalist Adam Skolnick, who immersed himself in this extreme yet poetic subculture to tell the story of Nicholas Mevoli, America’s greatest freediver and the protagonist of Adam’s masterfully crafted new book, One Breath: Freediving, Death, and the Quest to Shatter Human Limits*.
Even among freedivers, few have ever gone as deep as Mevoli. A handsome young American with an unmatched talent for the sport, Nick was among freediving’s brightest stars. He was also an extraordinary individual, one who rebelled against the vapid and commoditized society around him by relentlessly questing for something more meaningful and authentic, whatever the risks. So when Nick Mevoli arrived at Vertical Blue in 2013, the world’s premier freediving competition, he was widely expected to challenge records and continue his meteoric rise to stardom.
Instead, before the end of that fateful competition Nick Mevoli had died, a victim of the sport that had made him a star.
Traveling the world writing for The New York Times, Playboy, Outside, ESPN.com, BBC.com, Salon.com, Men’s Health, Wired, and Travel + Leisure, Adam was on site to cover Vertical Blue when he became a direct witness to Nick’s passing. His first-hand account landed on the front page of The New York Times, quickly went viral and set the stage for One Breath — a remarkably engaging exploration of Nick’s unforgettable story and the sport which shaped and ultimately destroyed him.
In the vein of Into The Wild and Born To Run, One Breath is one of the best books I have read in a long time. And I read a lot of books.
Today we unpack this mysterious subculture and the remarkable athleticism of its inhabitants. But at it’s core, this is a quite compelling conversation about passion. An examination of obsession, escapism, and the spiritual yearning for authenticity.
I really love this one. So sit back, inhale one deep breath, and submerge yourself in the world of Adam Skolnick.
Peace + Plants,
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Order Adam’s new book: One Breath: Freediving, Death, and the Quest to Shatter Human Limits*
Background, Context & Reference:
- NYTimes: A Deep-Water Diver From Brooklyn Dies After Trying for a Record by Adam Skolnick
- TheEconomist: Free-diving: Blue hole, black hole—a story of hubris and obsession
- CNN: Nick Mevoli: The diver who died doing what he loved by Jason Masters
- Independent: Depths of despair: Freediver Nicholas Mevoli was the most promising athlete in the US – but an unhealthy obsession led him to his death by Sara Campbell
- MensJournal: Free-Diving Turns Fatal by Kevin Gray
- ABCNews: Free-diver Nick Mevoli, 32, Dies While Attempting New Depths in Bahamas by Matt Gutman
- Salon: GMOs are tearing a tropical paradise apart by Adam Skolnick
- PRWatch: The Kaua’i Cocktail: Why Residents of Hawai’i Are Outraged by GMO Farming on Kaua’i by Paul Koberstein
- NPR: When ‘One Breath’ Tests Life: Author Explores Extreme Freediving with Rachel Martin
- MiamiHerald: Review: ‘One Breath’ by Adam Skolnick
- Kirkus: Review: ‘One Breath’ by Adam Skolnick
- X-RayMag: ‘One Breath’ Freediving Book Published Today
- LAYoga: ’One Breath’ Book Review by Felicia Tomasko
- Rainmaker: How Award-Winning Journalist Adam Skolnick Writes with Kelton Reid
- LAReviewofBooks: Andrew Gumbel on One Breath : Freediving, Death, and the Quest to Shatter Human Limits
- Book: Into The Wild* by John Krakauer
- Book: Born To Run* by Christopher McDougall
- Book: The Wave* by Kristoffer Joner
- Book: Into Thin Air* by John Krakauer
Notable People Discussed:
- Byrd Leavell: literary book agent
- Tanc Sade: Australian actor, writer, director, and Australian National Dynamic Freediver
- Nicholas Mevoli: America’s greatest freediver who died while attempting to set a record
- Branko Petrović: Serbian freediver who holds the Static Apnea World Record
- Elexey Molchanov: Russian champion freediver who holds the Constant Weight Apnea World Record
- Goran Čolak: Croatian freediver who holds the Dynamic Apnea with fins World Record
- Mateusz Malina: Polish freediver who holds the Dynamic Apnea no-fins World Record
- William Trubridge: New Zealander freediver who holds a double World Record in the free immersion and the constant weight without fins disciplines.
- Eric Fattah: Canadian freediver and innovator in the free-diving community
- Lia Hyun-Joo Barrett: underwater, travel, and fine art photographer
- Elizabeth Gilbert: American author, essayist, short story writer, biographer, novelist, and memoirist
Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:
- RRP 049: Tanc Sade on Holding Your Breath for 7 Minutes & Swimming 218 Meters Without Coming Up for Air
- RRP 139: Dan Buettner on How To Live To Be 100+
- RRP 187: Jedidiah Jenkins on The Pursuit of Wonder, The Power of Story, & Finding Truth in Nature
- RRP 194: Olympian Aaron Peirsol’s Love Affair With Water
*Disclosure:Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
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