Extreme Sport of Free Diving

Now I've snorkeled for years, but I quickly discover this is much harder than I expected. It's not holding my breath that's the problem: It's the pressure on my ears. I'm in sheer agony. I try all the diver's tricks to equalize the pressure, including blowing into my pinched nose harder than I think I should. Nothing works.

But I do not want to give up! Not on national television, with two cameras above water and one underwater taping my every pathetic attempt. So down I go. Again and again and again. Five times I try. Five times I wimp out, or at least my ears do.

Pipin says I made it down 18 feet. I suspect he's being charitable. (And this hurts to admit, because I'm told my colleague Don Dahler went down about 125 feet for a story he did on free diving for Good Morning America a while back. Ouch.)

But Pipin says, give him a week to train me, and I'll be down 200 feet, easy. Really, he says, 200 feet.

As for Pipin, this 40-year-old Cuban defector says his next goal is — get this — 600 feet. That's like a 60-story building. On one single breath of air.

Me? Next time I think I'll watch from the boat.

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