One Breath

Freediving, Death, and the Quest to Shatter Human Limits

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One Breath is a gripping and powerful exploration of the strange and fascinating sport of freediving, and of the tragic, untimely death of America’s greatest freediver

Competitive freediving—a sport built on diving as deep as possible on a single breath—tests the limits of human ability in the most hostile environment on earth. The unique and eclectic breed of individuals who freedive at the highest level regularly dive hundreds of feet below the ocean’s surface, reaching such depths that their organs compress, light disappears, and one mistake could kill them.

Even among freedivers, few have ever gone as deep as Nicholas Mevoli. A handsome young American with an unmatched talent for the sport, Nick was among freediving’s brightest stars. He was also an extraordinary individual, one who rebelled against the vapid and commoditized society around him by relentlessly questing for something more meaningful and authentic, whatever the risks. So when Nick Mevoli arrived at Vertical Blue in 2013, the world’s premier freediving competition, he was widely expected to challenge records and continue his meteoric rise to stardom.

Instead, before the end of that fateful competition Nick Mevoli had died, a victim of the sport that had made him a star, and the very future of free diving was called into question. With unparalleled access and masterfully crafted prose, One Breath tells his unforgettable story, and of the sport which shaped and ultimately destroyed him.


“It is a haunting tale…one imagines Nick Mevoli, young and beautiful—an undersea Icarus falling from the sun, away from friends, family and life.” - The Economist

"A vicarious thrill that you can enjoy in a little over 300 pages and unless you read it in the bath, you don’t even have to get wet. Just remember to breathe." - National Geographic Traveller

“Bears eloquent testimony to Mevoli’s life, his passions, his demons, and the sport he loved. … the narrative is colorful and frequently thrilling, and many of the characters leap off the page.” - The LA Review of Books
“Skolnick does an amazing job of showing you the forces, internally and externally, that drove Mevoli to his tragic end.”
Boing Boing

"One Breath could stand comfortably alongside classics of extreme-sports journalism such as Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, about the 1996 Mount Everest disaster. Like the best books on ultra-marathons, One Breath captures not just the adrenaline tang of the sport but also the compelling character of its practitioners and the deeper existential experiences they seek." The Sunday Times

"Skolnick shows sharp reportorial instincts in this multilayered narrative...This is a page-turning book...but it's also about the competitors drawn to the sport, the ones for whom "freediving is both an athletic quest to push the limits of the body and mind, and a spiritual experience." A worthy addition to the growing body of literature on adventures that test the limits of nature and mankind." - Kirkus Reviews

Plunges readers into a liquid kingdom of immense beauty and ever-present danger…a captivating, page-turning book about a world that few will ever visit, but that everyone should know.” —Susan Casey, bestselling author of The Devil's Teeth, The Wave and Voices in the Ocean

A powerful story about a dangerous, beautiful sport and an unforgettable young man. Skolnick tells his tale with passion and affection for his subject, but also with an admirable journalistic integrity. In the process, he takes us to distant worlds --- underwater universes most of us will never know --- where humans are challenged to the utmost limits of being." – Elizabeth Gilbert, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed

“With echoes of Jon Kraukauer's Into the Wild, Skolnick weaves together a portrait of a young man who died in his effort to embrace a life defined by the pursuit of what he loved. A mesmerizing and haunting tale by a very fine writer.”  – Neal Bascomb, New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Mile and Hunting Eichmann

“Why anyone would take a deep breath and dive the depth of a football field is beyond me. Why anyone would write about the extreme sport of freediving becomes clear within the first pages of this stunning book, both an ode to freediving and a warning that the sea is deep, dark and dangerous. Skolnick's investigation reveals the perilous passions of freediving's elite corps, who share a poetic language of foreboding: the drop, on the line, freefall, white cards, the squeeze. He's captured the glory and euphoria of a fast growing sport that attracts a fearless cast of misfits, yogis and rebels all drawn to the dreamy glide straight down the gullet of a column of blue turning to black. Deeply researched and beautifully written.” – Neal Thompson, author of A Curious Man, Driving With the Devil and Light This Candle

"Freediving is like a love affair with death -- a journey into a lightless mystery. What is it in the human heart that draws athletes toward such perilous territory? In telling the astonishing story of Nick Mevoli's life, Adam Skolnick becomes the first writer to fully explain this sport and its insane appeal. The result is a first-rate adventure story and a deeply-reported psychological profile of a man whose urges drove him to the ultimate test of endurance."-- Tom Zoellner, author of Uranium: War, Energy and the Rock that Shaped the World

"One Breath is a gripping heroic tragedy - it reminds us why the edge-seekers inspire us, and how we live through them, even as they break our hearts. The desire to push limits and the spiritual dimension of sport - the desire to commit and immerse ourselves to the hilt - speak powerfully to those of us who barely snorkel, much less freedive. In his portrayal of Nick Mevoli, Skolnick illuminates what it means to be young: how passion, physical vitality and innocence blur the line between brave and idiotic, inspired and crazy. Pushing the limits of human capability will always ride that line, and One Breath does a masterful job of illuminating that quest and all the love and loss around it."  -- J.C. Herz, author of Learning to Breathe Fire: The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness