free diver

Francisco Ferreras (free-diver)

Francisco Rodriguez, better known as Francisco 'Pipin' Ferreras (born January 18 1962) is a Cuban free-diver.


Ferreras was born in Matanzas, on the northern coast of Cuba, and began to practice free-diving at the age of 5. "Pipin" was his nickname from childhood, and years later he added Ferreras (Spanish: "Iron-Man").

Not much is known for certain about Ferreras' life in Cuba before his freediving career. From the late 1980s and onward he made a name of himself in the so-called "no-limits"' discipline of freediving where he established his first known world record of 112 meters (367 ft) depth in November 1989. Shortly hereafter he defected to Italy and later migrated to Florida, United States. Through the 1990s he established a long series of World Records, often in close rivalry with Italian Umberto Pelizzari. During this phase, Ferreras' last logged record dive reached a depth of 162 meters (531 ft) in January 2000, 12 meters deeper than Pelizzari's deepest record.

The rivalry of Ferreras and Pelizzari became the focus of the 2001 IMAX production Ocean Men: Extreme Dive, directed by renowned under water photographer Bob Talbot.

In 1996, Ferreras established the sports association International Association of Freedivers (IAFD) in direct opposition to the organization AIDA, but this had limited sportive success and closed in 2004. All of Ferreras' record dives of this era were conducted within the ambit of IAFD.

Marriage to his late wife Audrey Mestre

Ferreras had two defunct marriages behind him when in 1996, he met French-born Mexican-national Audrey Mestre who turned out to be a natural freediver herself. In 1999 they married, and quickly the two became a regular record-breaking couple in the sport of freediving, dividing men and women's records between them.

On October 12 2002 Mestre died in a scandalized attempt to break the no-limits world record (this attempt trying for both men and women's record) in a setup that was widely criticized within freediving circuits. Much of the critique went to Ferreras who had organized all of his and Mestre's record attempts for years. In a no-limits freedive, the standard diving method is holding on to a weighted sled to the target depth, and there open a pressurized air tank that fills a large inflatable balloon which carries the freediver back to the surface. On Mestre's fatal dive, this air tank was empty when Mestre reached her target depth of 171 meters (561 ft). Mestre was not recovered to the surface until nine minutes into her dive, and at that point it was too late to revive her. It was Ferreras who departed from the surface in SCUBA gear and salvaged Mestre's passed out body. A year after her death, Ferreras completed a no-limits dive to match Mestre's depth of 171 meters, allegedly to honor her, but very few within freediving circuits have acknowledged the validity of this performance.


Much controversy surrounds Pipin Ferreras. A few voices have accused him of cheating in many of his no-limits dives by mid-dive breathing air from a hose filling the sled's balloon. Others have named a total of five people (excluding Mestre) that died while diving with Ferreras and indicating foul play from the side of Ferreras. Many have labeled him proud and arrogant and have questioned his athletic abilities, and in freediving circuits he is not as respected as eg. Umberto Pelizzari, most likely because Pelizzari's freediving talents spread across several deep diving categories of freediving, particularly the more respected discipline Constant Weight.

In 2004 Ferreras published a book, The Dive: A Story of Love and Obsession, in which he describes his career and, in particular, his life with Mestre. This book received much criticism from freediving circuits, where it was accused of covering up negligance during Mestre's attempt. It was also criticized for painting an unrealistic image of both the zen nature of freediving and the Ferreras-Mestre romance. Despite criticism, shortly after its release it was reported that renowned film maker James Cameron had optioned the book prior to a feature film titled The Dive, scheduled for a 2008 release. Cameron had long shown interest in this story, as he had already optioned a June 16th 2003 Sports Illustrated cover caption entitled The Deadly Dive and article The Rapture Of The Deep, written by veteran sports journalist Gary Smith.

In 2006 Venezuelan-born US-citizen Carlos Serra, a former IAFD-partner of Ferreras' and co-organizer of Mestre's fatal record attempt, published his own book The Last Attempt which received wide acclaim in and out of freediving circuits. In this book, Serra places guilt on Mestre's death directly on Ferreras bordering on criminal accusation. According to Serra's depiction, the Ferreras and Mestre marriage was in October 2002 on the brink of divorce after much abuse by Ferreras, possibly due to Ferreras being jealous about the attention Mestre was gaining at his expense. Serra argues that to punish his wife for wanting to leave him, Ferreras deliberately avoided filling the sled's air tank. Several circumstances leave Serra to conclude that Ferreras may not have intended to murder his wife, but that it was his direct irresponsible actions that lead to her death.


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