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Freediver Focus
Deep in the sinai
There are few places in the world to have seen as many
freediving records set as the waters around the south sinai.
countless world-class freedivers have trained, competed or
Interview with red sea record breaker Federico Mana
even lived in and around the Egyptian red sea resorts of
dahab and sharm. Not only do these waters offer warm, clear,
deep and current free conditions directly off shore, here the
tried and tested freediving success recipe of merging yoga,
relaxation, meditation and the ocean is widely practiced.
Federico Mana is the latest in a long line of freedivers who
have crafted their competitive skills in the red sea and
eventually gone on to enter the record books. In August this
year in his former hometown of sharm, Federico set three
Italian freediving national records.
The 4-year-old is the first Italian national to reach 100m in
the constant weight with fins and 9m in the free immersion
discipline (where competitors are not allowed to swim but
must descend and ascend by pulling on a vertical guide rope
only). he has also held the national record of a 90m in the
constant weight without fins discipline since July 2008.
Federico was the first-ever resident freedive instructor in
sharm. he lived in Egypt for six years until the birth of his son
lorenzo in 2004. Although he moved back to Italy to bring
up his son with his wife, Antoinette, he comes back to Egypt
to train each year. A town that remains his ‘spiritual home’,
sharm is the place where he met his scuba instructor wife; the
sponsor support to help him compete professionally; and most
recently his entry into freediving’s exclusive ‘100m club’.
he admits a freediving career was not the obvious path for
a child who grew up near the mountains in Italy. The young
Federico only came close to the ocean during his summer
holidays. But despite only a few weeks contact with the sea a
year, he developed from an early age his skills of breath-hold
swimming underwater.
‘My father used to take me to the seaside at the cote d’Azur,’ he
recalls. ‘I was given a spear gun at the age of 12 and I began to
learn to freedive. It wasn’t really fishing, more just swimming
with the gun. My father spent a lot of time on the rocks looking
for his son. only when my lips were blue did I know it was time
to go back to shore.’
his love of the ocean stayed with him throughout his
childhood and teens and when old enough he learned to
scuba dive. But, he says, freediving has always been his sport
of choice. ‘scuba diving is about looking around yourself, while
freediving is about looking inside yourself.’
A qualified optometrist, Federico worked in eyesight
rehabilitation in Italy while training to be a freediving
instructor in his early Twenties. he was very successful in his
career, but his passion for the ocean eventually took over and
he moved to the red sea. ‘I feel alive in the middle of nature,
although I don’t think my parents quite understood that at the
time,’ he says. ‘It was hard for them to see how sport could be
It was in the sinai where he took up yoga to improve his
freediving techniques. he studied hard in this discipline and
its breathing techniques and by 2004 was a qualified hatha
yoga teacher. Among his many students in sharm is cdWs
chairman and owner of camel dive club, hesham Gabr. seeing
“Dory is singing the song ‘Just keep
his potential in freediving, camel dive club became his major
swimming, just keep swimming.’ I
sponsor, allowing Federico to compete competitively.
sing this to myself as I ascent as it
As well competing, his still teaches yoga and freediving
courses in Italy working this around his demanding training
really makes me smile.”
Issue  october / November 2009
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