Martin was born in Czechoslovakia, and was introduced to swimming by his mother. He was also always fascinated by the questions of aquatic biology. What makes the human body able to swim underwater? His interests lead him to a successful career as a competitive freediver with multiple world records, including diving to over 400 feet with a monofin on a single breath of air... And back!
He went on to found Freediving Instructors International (FII), a premier freediving education agency.
When Andrew was 10 years old, his family moved from a small town in Minnesota to Papua New Guinea. His best memories of those days were going down to Nagada Harbor and swimming over the coral reefs. He became scuba certified, has dove in reefs and cenotes around the world, and has genuinely fallen in love with the ocean.
He got his first camera (a film camera) in 2004, and hasn't stopped taking photos since!
The mammalian diving reflex is a set of physiological triggers and responses for the aquatic environment. This diving relfex makes us better divers, and it's the same reflex that marine mammals, and other animals, use to dive under the water as well.
Andrew tells a story of a famous National Geographic photo (
The Vulture And The Little Girl) and the photographer that took the shot. It's incredible that an image can have such an impact. We live in a world now where the power of photography, and the accessibility to the medium of photography, are ever present.
Everyone is born with a mammalian diving reflex. Even if you were born in the mountains or the desert and lived there all your life, you still have aquatic adaptations built for the sea. Martin describes the variety of professionals and individuals he's taught freediving to and how its benefited them.
As scuba divers, we are guests in the ocean. We need 50 pounds of equipment just to stay alive down there, we blow bubbles, make all kinds of noise. It's clear we're an alien down there. But, as freedivers... That is a a completely different experience.
Martin talks about the safety profile of freediving vs scuba and other water-based activities. Freediving can be completely safe if a few basic rules are followed. Martin's wife and he have started a nonprofit, Freedive Safe Hawaii, to teach youth about safe freediving practices.
Andrew talks about how he grew up scuba diving, and that the modis operandi around scuba is largely taking tourist on underwater tours. Freediving on the other hand is a community, a of a daily or weekly routine, a source of income (spearfishing), an exercise, a way of life.
Costa highlights a new corporate training course called, Finding The Wild Within, which combines aspects of freediving, innovation training, responsible leadership, and digital storytelling.
Martin, Andrew, and Costa came together in Hawaii to create FII's new Underwater Photography course (which will be available fall 2022 at the earliest). The course teaches photography and editing basics in the incredibly unique freediving context. It also brings creativity into the game by giving students exercises to help them make more creative and interesting compositions.
The mammalian diving reflex is an incredible aspect of human physicality, an aquatic gift in each of us. The ancients used it for spearfishing, photographers are using it now to bring the ocean world home (at least in images).
What else might we use our aquatic adaptation for?