March 25, 2021

Take a Deep Breath and Go Diving with Alexei Molchanov


Take a Deep Breath and Go Diving with Alexei Molchanov
We imagine Russian freedivers have especially thick skin. Unsplash user Marcus Assmann.

Diving is cool. But freediving is next-level.

The world's best freediver, 34-year-old Russian Alexei Molchanov, is in the spotlight after Men's Health published a long feature on the talented Russian diver.

Freedivers do what scuba divers do but in much less time and with almost no equipment. They descend on their own breath without the seemingly vital pressure regulation provided by the scuba kit.

Depending on the competition, Molchanov also shuns the weights that typically plunge divers into the deep, forcing him to work against the body's floating instinct. Under pressure, his lungs shrink to a third of their normal size. Wearing no googles, he cannot see anything and stays on track by attaching to a dive line.

Molchanov followed in the... ahem, fin kicks... of his mother. Natalya Molchanova was a major contributor to the advancement of the sport despite starting freediving later in life. She broke a world record on her 50th birthday: the no-fin 66-meter freedive.

At age 53, however, during a routine lesson, she went to a depth of about 100 feet and never resurfacedIn competitions, freedivers have safety divers following them, but Molchanova was the expert instructor performing a routine, shallow (for her!) maneuver when she disappeared.

Despite the loss of his mother, Molchanov is an evangelist for the sport, and uses his Instagram account to inspire young divers to get down there and test their limits. Continuing to dive is a way to "continue her legacy," Molchanov said.

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