One of the many advantages of my job is that I get the chance to meet people with (some might say) a disproportionate drive to be the best they can be. This throws up any number of fascinating character traits, bizarre habits and extreme behaviours. In the case of Adam Mustoe it also means he’s been drawn to one of the most extreme sports possible: Free Diving.
For the uninitiated, Free Diving combines a range of disciplines that all involve holding your breath underwater. For a long time. The discipline that draws the most attention, for reasons that will become obvious, is ‘No-Limits Apnea’, the goal of which is to achieve to the greatest depth, unassisted.
If you have ever see the Luc Besson cult classic, “The Big Blue”, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The diver in question holds onto a weighted sled to help speed his or her descent, following a guideline that also measures the depth. Once having achieved the maximum depth they deem possible, they use an inflatable bag to assist their return to the surface.
Throughout the entire process you are solely reliant on the breath you sucked into your lungs prior to commencing the dive. The next time you get any fresh oxygen is when you break the surface again. If this intimidates you as it does me, consider this: the world record depth for No Limits Apnea, held by Hebert Nitsch, is two hundred and fifty three metres and twenty centimetres. Think on that for a moment…
Adam, now in his 30s, is attempting the unfathomable: to compete with the very best in the world. Listen to us chatting about his early experiences of the sport:
Although watching a Free Diver through the lens of a camera provides a serene, beautiful, other worldly spectacle the reality of this sport is one that pushes its participants to the very brink of (and sometimes beyond) the capabilities of the human body. For all the performance sports and environments I’ve experienced there are none that provide such a particular (and high stake) set of demands.
When I met Adam, he was at great pains to point out that his sport, although by definition potentially dangerous, is all about control. In fact, control is the central theme to Free Diving. Control of environmental factors, control of self and fundamentally control of the singular action that binds every human on the planet; breathing. Nonetheless it is a sport that claims what, to me, is an unreasonable number of high profile victims. Whether they are drawn by the calls of invisible mermaids or mermen no-one knows but there is an evident addictive quality to a sport that requires you to go deeper and deeper. Don’t let the fact that his first experiences representing his nation in competition took place in a swimming pool. Listen to the story here:
It is rare in any sport or area of performance for someone to start so (relatively) late in life and achieve success. The 10,000 hour rule may be misleading but there’s no doubt that excellence in anything is achieved over a period of time; time spent following a systematic and progressive development programme in the correct environment. Adam, mid-30’s, living in a land-locked county and with only limited access to coach support has not set himself an easy task. But he makes it clear in our conversation that the sport has captured his imagination to the extent that he’s willing to do anything it takes to succeed.
Despite the physical demands of the sport, exotic locations and glamourous trappings very few Free Divers, outside of the very best, commit to their sport for anything other than love. And it’s not cheap to compete. Adam is forced to raise funds wherever he can; crowdsourcing, sponsorship and bar work to name but three. If you’d like to find out more about Adam’s experiences and journey towards taking on the best in the world you can follow him and support him at www.adammustoe.com.
I wish Adam all the best in his endeavours but it’s one sport I can say, with some degree of confidence, that I won’t be trying any time soon.
HELP! This is our first attempt at blending a written article with a recorded interview. Does it work? Is it a great addition to the Magazine? Or is it simply frustrating and the recording would be much better as a podcast? Please let us know what you think by writing to email@example.com. Thank you.