Have you seen the docu-film, “The Deepest Breath”?  The film is about competitive freediving, and features our friend, multiple world-record holder, Alessia Zecchini, who participated in the AIDA Oceanquest at Camotes Freediving in May 2023.  In fact, it was during this competition that Alessia set a new CWT world record, achieving 123 meters on a single breath!

Someone recently asked me a few questions about The Deepest Breath. Let me share with you my insights here, which I hope will interest you too.

WR CWT 123m during AIDA-Oceanquest Philippines @Camotes Freediving

Photo credit: Val Bautista

What would you tell someone if they had not seen The Deepest Breath?

That they have to watch it.

It is a very truthful documentary that shows some of the aspects of competitive freediving and is very moving as well. Just don’t get too caught up in the overdramatic aspect. I have been through the arch myself three times, and it is not as dangerous as depicted.

Do you agree with the description or statement that freediving is an extreme sport?

It is at a high level. But recreational freediving is definitely not extreme and is very safe compared to many other sports.

You have participated in the competitions featured in the film. As a competing athlete, what is the most important aspect of your freediving that you work on most before a dive?

As a competitive athlete, of course, my fitness and body adaptation to the pressure are essential, but specifically for competition, the main aspect I am working on is the mental aspect.

The film also sheds new light on safety diving. Do you feel like safety divers are often overlooked?

It is hard to tell. As an athlete, I never overlook the safety divers. First, I have been one, so I know how hard it is as a job. Plus, they are an essential part of our dives. Definitely, who your safety diver is will have an impact on how safe you feel on these extreme dives.

Alessia sharing a light moment with Alexey Molchanov and Camotes Freediving Head for Safety, Jean Jeantot; Cassandra Cooper and Thibault Guignes.
Alessia sharing a light moment with Alexey Molchanov and Camotes Freediving Head for Safety, Jean Jeantot; Cassandra Cooper and Thibault Guignes.

Is the public aware of how strong a freediver has to be to become a safety diver for a very deep dive? And how important are they?

I am not sure. In Camotes Freediving, we try to promote them as much as possible, and most importantly, we make sure to pay them properly. We would like this to become a real job and not just something you do because you are passionate and want to help.

Is it standard that the safety team get to know each diver and plan their roles according to the diver, or was that Keenan’s initiative?

In most competitions I have been to, safety divers get to know the athletes. First, the athletes usually arrive prior to the competition to train and meet with the safety team. In addition, the safety teams have meetings each day before the competition to discuss the diving plan of each athlete. So, Steven’s charismatic personality emphasized this aspect, but it is definitely common to all the best safety divers.

Alessia Zecchini and Thibault Guignes
Alessia Zecchini and Thibault Guignes

Some people seemed to be born to be freedivers, like Alessia Zecchini. While for some, they find their path to freediving later on in their lives. It seems like once a commitment to being a freediver is made, there is no turning back. What do you think is the common thread among all committed freedivers?

I think the common thread is the peace you are getting out of it and your love for the ocean in general.
It is a very new sport, and it has the image of being extreme. I think that’s one of the reasons most people discover it later. It is depicted as extreme and dangerous regularly. So I am not sure it is encouraging parents to have their kids go for it!

Plus, the mental aspect of freediving is almost like therapy for a lot of people. You will see a lot of people who changed their lives through freediving. Among the athletes, you can definitely see former soldiers, engineers, bankers, etc.

As the sport is growing and becoming more popular, we see indeed a new generation like Alessia Zecchini, Antonio Mogarevo, or Arnaud Jerald that discovered freediving young and decided early to make a career out of it.