When I’m reading a book about diving, I judge it in three main ways. Am I losing sleep over its un-putdownable-ness? Am I transported into a romanticised version of diving, with exotic location/treasure/action (corny and stereotypical, I know)? And, Do I learn new things about the ocean and diving that will inspire me?
‘The Dive – A Story of Love & Obsession’ by Pipin Ferreras, despite that it fulfils only two of my important personal factors, is still a book that I rave about. I recommend it to non-divers, such is the interesting content about human limits and behaviour.
Short synopsis – Pipin Ferreras and his wife Audrey Mestre, were freedivings’ power couple. They became obsessed with the competition, and pushing the limits of their own bodies, until Audrey’s attempt to break 166 metres on one breath ended tragically. Following the controversy and claims of sabotage, Pipin recounts his own story, and the love between him and Audrey and the ocean. The one-minded obsession of the human psyche in a foreign element is described here in breathless prose. Oh, and it’s a true story. Click here to buy!
Extended review – I feel the euphoric reason why people freedive and test their limits is described excellently. I am not supposed to breath underwater (wow it’s a revelation!!). I do know this, I just defy it! But freediving is a much more extreme version of the sport. Not only that, the book describes the actual physical changes the human body must endure when diving to extreme depths on one breath. Terrifying! All rushing blood and shrinking lungs. It seriously does not build a case for an enjoyable afternoon in the ocean. BUT IT DOES! The novel, builds and builds, by describing Pipin’s autobiographical need to live, breathe and work the ocean. It is obsession in its purest form. So is reading it. I am also now a strong contender for a new sport; the ‘Read extreme book on single breath’ championships. Seriously, I had to remind myself to breathe normally. Pipin’s story describes how the ocean draws one in. It is inviting, terrifying and to beat it, to defy nature and survive under water at those depths is a victory against the element herself.
On a more personal level, Audrey herself, seemed like the kind of person you could meet in a dive shop and be instant friends with. Her at-one-ness with marine animals, her excitement and sense of adventure, her powerful obsession. Perhaps it is because Pipin has chosen to previously include in the book many archived photos of Audrey, (Diving with stingrays; Dancing underwater; Watching the sunset; Doing yoga) that her realness is so beautiful. She is not just a character in a book.
Autobiographical books about diving do stress the psychological fixation and passion of the ocean and the sport. And they recount accidents with descriptive reality, rather than having Flipper shoot in and save the day. This fascination of reading one is not a melancholic experience. It is not the macabre need for detail. It’s appeal is in the science of the sport, and the liberation from an ocean that can just as quickly assert her authority.