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Superdiver

from GQ

The Secrets of The World’s Greatest Freediver

With only a single breath, Alexey Molchanov, history’s most daring freediver, is reaching improbable depths—and discovering a new kind of enlightenment as he conquers one of the world’s wildest sports.

BY DANIEL RILEY / PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAAN VERHOEVEN

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Freediving seemed to a young Molchanov like a door to another world—a life of “travels and adventures. With dolphins and sea lions and whales and sharks.”

1. Rhapsody in Blue

For all the complex techniques required to succeed, the objective is remarkably simple: Go as deep as you can go on one breath and return to the surface without passing out or dying.

This is the point of freediving. At least the competitive point. And here in the Bahamas, 42 divers from around the world have gathered, like filings to a magnet, at a geological marvel called a blue hole, in this case a 660-foot elevator shaft of ocean water, to see how many stories they can plunge themselves down.

The competition, Vertical Blue, is the Wimbledon of freediving, summoning the planet’s best to battle in perhaps the most amenable freediving waters in the world. As the event’s founder, William Trubridge, who’s spent a lifetime scouring the earth’s surface for conducive spots to go deep, put it to me: “You could not design a better place for freediving if you sat down with pen and paper.”

But this is more than the pinnacle competition of a sport. Yes, the divers here devote their lives to the pursuit of record depths, but they also dedicate themselves to a novel way of interacting with this world and its oceans—and of being alive, of breathing. They come from Italy and Japan and New Zealand and Peru. They live and train in Sardinia and Okinawa and Cyprus and Tulum. They compete in the glorious depths off of Egypt and Turkey and Honduras and Greece. They prepare together, rent group houses on the road, often fall into bed with one another, and occasionally marry. They are specialized professionals but don’t really make any money; their sport hasn’t yet hit the big time. But no matter: To spend time in their midst is to begin to comprehend that they are after something greater, something sublime.

[ click to continue reading at GQ ]

Posted on October 24, 2021 by Editor

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