Freediver descended 122 meters: I felt weightless, like floating on the moon

I’m naturally attracted to depths and the mysteries they hold. Whenever I dive into the water, I find myself drawn to the rays that swim beneath me.

  • 1 year ago
  • April 8, 2023
8 min read
Interview Subject
Miguel Lozano, a professional freediver specializing in freediving modalities, achieved significant success in the field. In 2015, he was Double World Runner-up in two out of three depth disciplines: constant weight without fins and free immersion, at the AIDA Depth World Championships in Cyprus.

On May 30, 2016, he set an impressive record by submerging to a depth of -122 meters in free immersion during the Caribbean Cup championship in Roatán, Honduras. This achievement currently ranks him as the fourth person in the world in this discipline, just 5 meters away from the current world record of -127m.
Background Context
Free diving or no-limit apnea is an exciting sport that requires participants to hold their breath while diving. The sport is divided into three main modalities, each with its own set of rules.

The first modality is called static, where the participant holds their breath while staying still on the surface of the water. The second modality is dynamic, where the participant tries to travel the longest distance possible horizontally underwater in a pool. Finally, there is the depth modality, which involves diving as deep as possible in a single breath.

CANARY ISLANDS, Spain — As I plunge into the depths of the ocean, the sound of my own heartbeat fills my ears. The water pressure intensifies, and my lungs ache for air, but I am not afraid. I am a free diver, and this is where I belong. Born in a seaside village in northern Barcelona, I have had a natural connection with the water since I was a child.

My passion for the ocean led me to become an athlete in no-limit apnea freediving, a discipline where I voluntarily suspend my breathing to explore the underwater world without oxygen tanks or any other aid. In 2008, I descended 122 meters (400 feet) without scuba gear, a challenge that requires not only descending to a certain point but also being able to come back up on my own without any help.

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Diver discovers no-limit apnea freediving, becomes more than a passion

I’m naturally attracted to depths and the mysteries they hold. Whenever I dive into the water, I find myself drawn to the rays that swim beneath me. For me, it’s not just about discovering new things at great depths, but also exploring everything the ocean has to offer at any level, especially if there’s marine life involved.

Since childhood, I felt fascinated by marine animals and held my breath through games like fishing or searching for coins at the bottom of the water. Later, I became attracted to spearfishing and discovered freediving as a sport to perfect my unconscious abilities. As I grew older and became a teenager, my passion for scuba diving and spearfishing took me to a new path, and I became an athlete in no-limit apnea freediving in 2008.

I felt compelled towards freediving for its sporting aspect of going as deep as possible and the therapeutic feeling of unloading tension, stress, and the noise of society. For me, freediving is a combination of body-mind-nature that attracted me and led me to dedicate my life to it.

Freediving requires proper breathing, relaxation, and ear equalization techniques, which are crucial to adapt physiologically and mentally. The technical and mental aspects of freediving weigh more in the progression, but the physical aspect is key in the competition. For me, apnea is an escape valve and a way to discharge stress. It is a technical game and an underwater meditation that allows me to travel weightless like I am in space, free from the constraints of gravity.

Blackouts during descents remain extremely rare: I have had four

When practicing no-limit apnea freediving, I go without a mask and with my eyes closed, focusing on the technical aspects of consumption, relaxation, and concentration. This activity allows me to investigate the most mental and emotional aspects of myself.

The combination of body and mind in a natural state, like the sea, induces relaxation that few activities on land can achieve. On earth, gravity and the sense of sight can distort the rest of the senses. Freediving remains an introspective sport that involves mental work, allowing me to get to know myself better. It also gives me confidence in doing something I didn’t think I could do. Holding my breath for two, three, and four minutes, comforts all levels. Although it may not seem like a pleasant activity, it connects me with my most animal self, and it’s more natural than people think.

Fortunately, accidents in freediving are almost unheard of, at least those that result in death. While syncope [a loss of consciousness for a short period of time] is relatively common in competitive freediving, it is rarely fatal. I have immense confidence in my abilities, and I’m always careful to ensure my safety and that of my team.

In my athletic career, I have experienced four blackouts in as many descents. While it may seem like a lot, it’s not uncommon due to conditions such as currents, atmospheric factors, and emotions that can affect the efficiency of oxygen consumption. Sometimes the line between success and failure is thin, and mistakes can happen, but safety protocols exist for that reason. My lung capacity is around 10 liters, which is twice that of a normal person with 4.6 liters.

Experienced freediver reaches depths few in the world have descended

When I am on the line for the descent, I am completely focused on the technical exercise ahead. Before descending, I take a deep, diaphragmatic breath, closing off my epiglottis to draw in more air. I hold that position for a few seconds, then release and repeat. The first 15 meters of the descent require more oxygen consumption due to the powerful fluttering, but after that, my lung capacity decreases, and I slow down to conserve oxygen.

By the time I reach 30 meters, my body falls due to buoyancy, and I am in a state of lethargy. This is when I try to be as relaxed as possible and conserve energy. The feeling of the heart rate dropping is amazing, and I try to stay as still as possible, focusing on equalizing the pressure and relaxing to avoid unnecessary muscle movement.

Once I reach the maximum depth, doubts can assail me mentally, but I use my training to rationalize the situation and begin the ascent. This is the most physically demanding part of the dive, and my consumption increases as I pull the line and flap my fins to ascend.

As I hold my breath, my muscles start to burn, and I must remain focused to avoid negative thoughts. This means pulling the rope with or without fins and pushing my body to its limits.

Joining an elite group and encountering sea life

When I emerge from the water, I look at the judge, make an okay sign, and say “I’m okay” for the mark to count. I smile thinking I relied solely on my own strength to propel myself forward. I descended to 122 meters without scuba gear, which according to freediving rules, requires not only descending to a certain point but also being able to come back up on my own without any help.

During my 20 years of freediving all over the world, I have had the privilege of connecting with countless marine animals, including whales, dolphins, sharks, manta rays, and turtles. These interactions are the most intense experiences in recreational freediving. When encountering a shark, I experience powerful feelings.

The shark acts on instinct, and there seems to be nothing behind its eyes. However, swimming alongside a dolphin, seal, sea lion, or whale remains entirely different. It looks at you, analyzes you, and echolocates you. The animal observes you in the same way you observe it. It feels like an interaction with someone of your own species.

Most people would think that freediving is a painful activity where fear prevails, and there are indeed moments of fear, but I overcome them with training. It’s a process of construction, correcting errors, and positively reinforcing each step I take in this activity.

Freediving opens doors, entrepreneur explores new horizons

I seek to put into perspective the difficulty of going so deep, not through technological means but through the self-propulsion of our bodies. My motto is that only 12 people have walked on the moon in all of human history, and only a handful of us have descended to 120 meters. Yet, in the water, we are weightless, and the feeling of being in space can be felt at 10 meters deep, where you can move in three directions without experiencing your weight. Humans have dedicated themselves to going to space to feel that weightlessness, which is one of our dreams, but that same feeling can be achieved through freediving.

Today, I run three freediving schools in the Canary Islands, Tenerife, and Egypt and have become one of the best in this activity. During my freediving, I can stay still without breathing for eight and a half minutes. However, freediving requires proper preparation and a lot of experience, and even then, things can go wrong.

For me, the best places to practice freediving are those that offer a combination of safety, warm water, good visibility, and minimal currents or thermoclines. Locations like the Canary Islands, the Red Sea, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia provide ideal conditions for this sport. However, it’s important to note that freediving can be done under any condition and even in swimming pools.

Sadly, in recent years, one of the things that have surprised me the most is the amount of garbage I have seen in the sea. As someone who lives off the sea, it is heartbreaking to witness the degradation caused by human activity over the years.

All photos courtesy of Team Miguel Lozano.

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