Dive: A Story of Love and Obsessionby Pipin Ferreras
In 1996, Francisco "Pipín" Ferreras, a native Cuban and a world champion in the dangerous and controversial sport of free diving, met Audrey Mestre, a beautiful French marine biology student. A passionate romance immediately bloomed between the two, and their love was bonded by a shared fascination with and devotion to the ocean. They soon became free diving's
In 1996, Francisco "Pipín" Ferreras, a native Cuban and a world champion in the dangerous and controversial sport of free diving, met Audrey Mestre, a beautiful French marine biology student. A passionate romance immediately bloomed between the two, and their love was bonded by a shared fascination with and devotion to the ocean. They soon became free diving's power couple, testing the limits of their wills and bodies by descending to unthinkable depths.
Then, on October 12, 2002, in a dive off the coast of the Dominican Republic, tragedy struck: Audrey's attempt to break the world record of 170 meters ended in her death. Now, for the first time, Pipín tells his story. He shares the heart-pounding adventure and fierce competition that fuel the sport of free diving and his own addiction to it. He addresses the controversy that has followed him throughout his career and that spun out of control after Audrey's death. And he relates the haunting story of his relationship with Audrey a unique and complicated tale of love and obsession taken to extreme depths.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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- 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.64(d)
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The DiveA Story of Love and Obsession
By Pipin Ferreras
ReganBooksCopyright © 2005 Pipin Ferreras
All right reserved.
On the morning of October 12, 2002, shortly after dawn, I awoke from uneasy dreams and turned to look at my beautiful wife, Audrey Mestre, fast asleep on the unfamiliar bed next to me. Audrey and I had been together for almost seven years, and I was still filled with awe when I looked at her. She was too good for me; sometimes I felt as if I didn't deserve her.
I stood and made my way across the gray light of the hotel room and lifted the edge of the curtain. For the past two days, we had enjoyed perfect weather, but that was clearly over. I could hardly see the rising sun beyond the bruised, purple sky, and the trees along the shoreline were wailing in the wind.
I was not pleased. We had come to Bayahibe Beach, in the Dominican Republic, to set a new world record in free diving. No, not me: Audrey. I had been practicing the sport for more than two decades -- diving to unimaginable depths without tanks -- but she was a relative newcomer. Still, here we were to show the world that Audrey Mestre could beat the benchmark I had set two years earlier, when I had wrapped myself around a weighted sled, plunged 162 meters into the sea, inflated a balloon at the touch of abutton, and rocketed back to the surface -- all on a single breath of air. The entire trip -- the distance of three football fields -- had barely taken three minutes. But those three glorious, death-defying minutes are what it's all about. Those three minutes define me. Every time I reach the bottom and prepare for the long journey back, I think to myself, Here I am, where I belong.
I looked over at Audrey again, just now waking up. She smiled at me, yawned, and stretched her long limbs. "¿Qué pasa?" she asked.
"I don't like this weather," I said, frowning.
"Don't worry," she said. "It'll clear up."
That was Audrey for you: completely unflappable. In a matter of hours, she was going to try to set a world free-diving record, and she behaved as if she were looking forward to nothing more than a quiet stroll on the beach. That was part of her charm. There wasn't much that fazed Audrey. She took life as it came, and she treated every day like a gift. For Audrey, today was a day like any other. For me, her polar opposite, it was critically important. I had taught Audrey everything I knew about the sport. I had taught her how to survive at a water pressure that is eight hundred times denser than air; how to cram her lungs with oxygen while ridding them of carbon dioxide; how to coax her mind and body into a trancelike, energy-conserving state; and how to equalize her screaming ears at crushing depths. She had taken to the sport effortlessly, as if she had been born to it, and before long I realized she would soon surpass me.
She had another advantage: at twenty-eight, Audrey was twelve years my junior, and wholly undamaged by free diving. No blackouts, no crippling bouts of decompression, no close calls, no fear. But the biggest point in her favor was her unbeatable attitude. For Audrey, free diving was above all things a journey of self-discovery. For me, self-discovery was part of it, certainly, but I was also hooked on competition. I was the king of free diving. I was in the business of endorsing diving products, filming underwater documentaries, and setting world records.
And yes, I know: at that point, my last record was almost two years old. But that wasn't the issue. I wasn't there for me that day. I was there for Audrey. I was there to watch her turn herself into a star. I was there to watch my protégée become my successor.
"What are you thinking about?" she asked.
"I'm thinking about how beautiful you are," I said.
She got out of bed, moved toward me and gave me a kiss on the lips. "Relax," she said. "It's going to be great."
That was the other thing about Audrey. She always knew exactly what was going on in that hyperactive mind of mine, sometimes better than I knew it myself.
"I'm relaxed," I said. "Working on it, anyway."
But how could she expect me to relax? Our reputations would be riding on that sled with her.
We showered and dressed and Audrey decided to skip breakfast. She wanted to rest and get herself quietly centered. Beyond that, she wanted to avoid the press. Unlike me, she wasn't comfortable in front of the cameras.
"I should go see the guys," I said, kissing her. "I'll hurry back after breakfast."
I ran into a small knot of reporters near the lobby, all of whom were clearly disappointed that Audrey wasn't with me. One of them was this nerdy little Mexican who the previous day had come right out and asked Audrey, in my presence, what it was she saw in me. I had to laugh at his audacity, but I saw his point: a lot of people asked themselves that very question. I was a bald, outspoken, macho Cuban with a gift for pissing people off; she was a beautiful, auburn-haired goddess, and even greater beauty lay within. In some ways, Audrey seemed like a different species, leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of us on the evolutionary scale.
I wasn't always sure what she saw in me, either, to be honest, but I wasn't complaining. I waved at the reporters, flashing my gap-toothed smile, and went off to meet the guys. I found them in the dining room.
"Well, here's the beast. Where's beauty?"
That was Carlos Serra, my right-hand man, a bearded, garrulous Venezuelan who lived near us in Miami. He helped me with the logistics of each dive, which can be as complicated as surgery.
Excerpted from The Dive by Pipin Ferreras Copyright © 2005 by Pipin Ferreras. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
A pioneer in free diving, Pipín Ferreras matched his late wife's world record of 170 meters on October 12, 2003, during a tribute dive in her honor. He lives in Miami, Florida.
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