Imagine taking a single breath, then plummeting hundreds of feet down into the ocean on a weighted sled. Welcome to No Limits freediving. Audrey Mestre was a French national, living in Mexico studying marine biology. She wrote her thesis paper about how the human body adapts to survive at extreme depths. The focus of her paper was Francisco 'Pipin' Ferreras, a legendary Cuban freediver, who liked to push the limits. “I chose him as a subject of my thesis because he was the world champion freediver”, she said in a past interview.
Audrey gets typhoid fever at 14, which creates scoliosis in her back. It is that bad, she has to be put in this really hard plastic corset for a number of years. The only time she's allowed out of that is in the water and her grandfather happens to be a spearfishing champion and so she still has this one place where she can be free. Pipin was born in Cuba on January 18, 1962. He grew up as a child with deformed legs and feet, asthma, and bad eyesight. He discovers, thanks to an uncle who puts him in the water, that he can swim before he can walk.
Audrey managed to recover from her hardships and while studying, she by chance saw a poster featuring the subject of her thesis. She finds out that he's gonna be diving in Cabo San Lucas, she hops on a bus and suddenly she's in this world of his. By the next day, Audrey's assisting him on his training dives. That week, on the second day, Audrey experienced firsthand the high risks associated with the sport, as one of the safety divers died during routine training.
They eventually get married and, in no time, they're off filming around the world. Pipin has these deals to do movies and TV series and Audrey really was all about the ocean. Her favorite thing was to dive with the animals, the sharks, the dolphins. “People think of mermaids, she was the original mermaid”.
Pipin began training Audrey in No Limits. Her first No Limits record dive was for the French nationals under the watchful eye of her mother. Audrey would attempt a depth of 80 meters or 263 feet. “I felt privileged to be around her as she transitioned from being literally just an extra on a set, to being star talent. It was wonderful to see her because it came very naturally to her”.
In January of 2000, at the age of 38, Pipin attempted his deepest dive ever; 163 meters or 535 feet. During his ascent, he suffered a blackout that left him unconscious for more than a minute. In May of 2015, he arranged for Audrey to make her first women's world record attempt. Although Audrey reached her target depth of 125 meters, upon surfacing she also suffered from a blackout.
Just 6 weeks after Tanya Streeter’s world record dive, Pipin & Audrey headed to the Dominican Republic for Audrey to begin training. On October 12th, 2002, Audrey Mestre attempted to break the No Limits world record by diving 564 feet on a single breath of air. It was the last dive of her life.