POV

Freediving: A Way of Life

When I’m not freediving, for training or leisure, I teach it, or breathing techniques and stress management.

Story and media by Alessandro Magi - magialex@hotmail.com

Swimming with Tuna from Citizen Brooklyn on Vimeo.

CBK: At what age and why did you start freediving?

Federico Mana: I started showing a deep and passionate love for water when I was a child. Actually, it wasn’t freediving itself that attracted me—at the time I didn’t even know what freediving was—but it was only by holding my breath that I could explore the fascinating creatures underwater.

Like many others, I started loving water through swimming lessons, and soon my instructor realized I was keen on diving. Instead of having the usual warm up before getting into the pool, he used to charge me with task of rescuing earrings and bracelets from the bottom of the pool. This way I could enjoy the pleasure of playing in the water, pretending to look for lost treasures.

Photo © Federico Mana

Photo ©Alessandro Magi

It was always natural for me to give my best in sports and I was exhausted at the end of the training sessions, thus my parents decided not to let me continue with competitions. They suggested I take up basketball instead and that was my true love up to the age of twenty-three.

Freediving was just a leisure activity in those years and my father gave me my first spear gun—we pretended it was a “rifle”, which allowed me to feel like the terror of the sea—when I was twelve. I used to spend hours in the water, but my basket was mostly empty, as I dedicated myself much more to enchanted observation of the underwater world than to catching fish (a poetic way to say I was very poor at fishing).

Photo © Federico Mana

Photo ©Alessandro Magi

Once I had quit basketball due to a number of injuries, I came back to my first pervading love for water and I searched for a training school to break into the secret techniques of freediving. I then attended my first course at Apnea-Academy under the guide of my idol, Umberto Pellizzari, and there I met people who shared my untamed passion for the deep blue.

It was my group of diving mates that enhanced my enthusiasm and made me decide to continue on to getting my license and becoming an instructor in order to share and spread my passionate love.

In 2002, I became an freediving instructor and with Pelo’s (Pellizzari’s nickname) help, I decided to quit my usual job at twenty-eight and start earning a living through freediving. When I moved to Egypt in 2003, friends and relatives thought I hade gone crazy and told me it was foolish of me to choose such a precarious life. Ten years have passed and today I still live by the sea. When I wake up in the morning to do my job as an instructor, I’m more motivated than ever.

Photo © Federico Mana

Photo ©Alessandro Magi

How do you feel about freediving today?

It is as rewarding as ten years ago. It’s my most natural self, the expression of my true nature. I feel privileged to live on a discipline I love, and when I’m teaching I not only transfer my knowledge to my students, but also try to pass some of my own passion for this extraordinary world. Actually, the real teacher is the sea itself; I only share the joy and excitement of this wonderful entity.

Photo © Federico Mana

Photo ©Alessandro Magi

What are people reactions when you talk about this sport?

People who don’t practice scuba diving or freediving usually feel quite opposed to trying them and think of us divers as partially unbalanced people. That’s the first impression we make when we tell our stories. Fear of the unknown causes this reaction, but as soon as they hear my stories, they start learning about, empathizing with and dreaming of the liquid element. The same people who are initially frightened often discover a world of relaxation and amusement very different from the anxiety-ridden experience they expected to find.

Photo © Federico Mana

Photo ©Alessandro Magi

How does free diving influence your daily life?

Freediving is everyday life for me, therefore it is of the utmost importance. When I’m not freediving, for training or leisure, I teach it, or breathing techniques and stress management. For me, then, there is not so much distinction between everyday life and freediving.

Surely practicing freediving can have a lot positive effects for those who enjoy it as a leisure activity. First of all, it produces a functional charge that causes a psycho-physical improvement. It is necessary to learn how to control breath and increase both the quantity and quality of lung capacity.

Photo © Federico Mana

Photo ©Alessandro Magi

Once this skill has been acquired its use is not restricted to freediving, but improves lung capacity in everyday life. Many people who have taken up freediving have enjoyed a general improvement in their health. Moreover, they often report a greater sense of calm improved stress management, better concentration and even better digestion.

As a matter of fact, freediving deeply involves both the body and the psyche. This is one of the few activities in which you are required to be both active and passive simultaneously. This enhances introspection skills.

Photo © Federico Mana

Photo ©Alessandro Magi

What records have you broken?

(For the full list of Mr. Mana’s records please visit his website www.federicomana.com.)

What will be your next record attempt?

Every year I contemplate whether or not to continue doing record attempts. Then the feelings come that launch me into new adventures. Every time you train and you get close to your limit, your limit expand, the destination become a step towards the next. In September 2013, I would like to make record attempts in Italy. I’ve always made attempts in the tropical seas where marine weather conditions and temperature at depth greatly facilitate divers. In recent years, however, I have greatly increased my confidence in the Mediterranean. I am aware of the difficulties that I will meet, but I look forward to facing this new challenge. I also like the idea of ​​doing it in a place where I feel at home.

Photo © Federico Mana

Photo ©Alessandro Magi

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