As far as extreme sports go, free diving is among the most challenging. Divers push the limits of human evolution by descending hundreds of meters below the surface, fighting massive levels of water pressure and minutes without oxygen. Patrick Musimu, a leading figure and eventual victim of freediving, rejected the term "extreme sport," calling it an adventure.
The 50-meter mark was first breached in 1962 by Enzo Maiorca; his rival Jacques Mayol hit 100 meters 14 years later. As the sport developed and gained popularity, divers began incorporating fins, weights, inflatable balloons and diving sleds, going ever deeper. In 1992, the International Association for the Development of Apnea (AIDA) was established to set global standards and verify free diving records.
In no-limit free diving, the diver uses a weight sled to descend to a predetermined depth, at which point he or she activates an inflatable balloon to return to the surface. If this seems like cheating, think about the fact that to descend to the current deepest mark of 214 meters, Herbert Nitsch went 4 minutes, 24 seconds without taking a breath. This is not a sport for the weak of heart, or lungs. In the last decade, free diving has reached new depths, but the risks involved have become more manifest than ever.
These five amazing dives all set world records, but not every diver made it back to the surface.
5. Francisco 'Pipin' Ferreras, 162 m, January 2000
The Cuban Ferreras began free diving in the 1980s. His rivalry with Italian diver Umberto Pelizzari pushed each to set a series of world records, but Ferreras came out on top, hitting 162 meters in 2000, which was 12 meters deeper than Pelizzari ever reached.