This Saturday, New Zealander William Trubridge dropped 400 feet below the ocean's surface in the Bahamas' annual Vertical Blue competition to break his freediving world record on Saturday (the freediver also owns diving school Vertical Blue). Then, as you slipped into your work week grind on Monday, Trubridge plunged 124 meters deep (almost 407 feet), shattering the world record yet again.
Despite its harmless-sounding name, freediving isn't for the faint of heart. Firsthand accounts of it will leave you with goosebumps and chilling tales of brain damage, helicopter lifts, and comas. Trubridge, who's known as the king of the sport, first set his “free immersion” record in 2011 with a dive of 397 feet (that’s higher than the Statue of Liberty, if you didn’t know). Free immersion uses a rope — instead of fins — to descend into the water and back up. Even more impressive, in his latest dive, Trubridge held a single breath of four-minutes and 34-seconds.
Freediving itself is an underwater sport in which competitors, while holding their breath, plunge into the ocean without breathing devices. The extreme sport has garnered notoriety in the past years for pushing the limits of the human body, even drawing attention from racecar driver Ryan Hunter-Reay.
And the sport is called extreme for a reason. Without the use of scuba tanks, divers have held single breaths for minutes at a time, an action that can result in severe convulsions and even death. In 2013, American-diver Nick Mevoli died after a three-minute, 36-second plunge at a Vertical Blue competition. Divewise reports that in a study from 2006 to 2011, there were a total of 417 freediving accidents, with 308 of them being fatal.
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