The two-time Croatian champion and world record breaker Mike Maric began his freediving journey after meeting freediving legend Umberto Pelizzari. It was the type of adventure most aspiring athletes can only dream of. This unique friendship between the young university graduate and one of the biggest names in freediving along with the experiences they shared as ‘Pelo’ travelled the world breaking new ground in the world of ‘no limits’ freediving shaped the man we had the pleasure to sit down with recently.
On The Road With Pelo
I didn’t take long for Maric to decide that his future was intertwined with that of ‘Pelo’ Pelizzari. In fact, it was the same year that they first met, 1997, that Maric followed him to witness his records at Portofino. After that, he was hooked. Mike became a dive instructor at Umberto’s school Apnea Academy in 1998 and was on hand for another epic moment in Pelo’s career as he set new records in Santa Margherita Ligure in 1999. Maric even landed himself a small role in the 2000 iMax film that brought the legendary rivalry between Umberto ‘Pelo’ Pelizzari and Francisco ‘Pipin’ Ferreras, “Ocean Men,” to life on the big screen
The Turning Point
2001 was a big year for Maric. It was his debut on the Croatian team and the year he, along with the rest of the freediving world, said goodbye to Pelo as an active competitor with his final record. All those years in the presence of greatness had fueled his competitive spirit and it grew as he discovered new disciplines like his specialty, the monofin. But, it wouldn’t be until 2004 that he began realizing his full potential, breaking both the “Jump Blue” world record and the Croatian Dynamic Apnea national record within a few months of each other. However, in 2005 at the height of his competitive career, disaster struck.
The happiness he felt after winning his second national championship was marred by the unexpected fishing accident that claimed the life of his close friend. The news hit him so hard that he distanced himself from the water until 2006 when he participated in his last competition, coming in second place at the Croatian nationals. After proving to himself that he was still able to shine, Maric decided to dedicate his time to preparing the next generation for greatness.
The Student Becomes The Master
Like so many world-class athletes, Maric wasn’t able to completely turn his back on the sport he says allows you to,
“…change yourself in1metre, 3 metres, 10 metres….”
That’s why he is proud to give his experience to people aspiring to freediving greatness. He uses music, words and images to train his students on mental toughness and a positive attitude. It’s the same way he used to himself ready for the sacrifice it takes for people to push their limits and achieve greatness. In Maric’s own words,
“I use the same methods to train, to train the other, the athete because I have to give all my positivity to the athletes especially when they are tired, they don’t want to do, they don’t want to train, I have to be positive and not angry or negative, because I was athlete and I know what it mean to be athlete and to have a big suffering during the training. For this reason when frequently the athlete don’t believe in them, but I believe in their ability, and for this reason I must be myself positive, everywhere and always.”
One student who can attest to the effectiveness of Maric’s training philosophy is Olympic gold medalist swimmer, Federica Pellegrini. While other professional and Olympic athletes have attended special training camps or gone through training programs with apnea trainers (like Emma Farrell’s work with the U.K. team), Mike’s involvement goes much deeper. In 2013, he joined Pellegrini’s training staff as her official apnea, breathing and monofin coach, marking the first time that the professional apnea world and professional swimming world formed a long-term collaboration with the goal of providing that critical edge needed to produce world champions and Olympic medalists.
Mike is a firm believer that freediving should be a part of people’s lives. Besides his theory that you can truly find yourself in the calm serenity of those moments beneath the surface and the feeling of absolute freedom he absolutely loves, he points to an almost spiritual idea of being water in the water. As he puts it,
“The human body is water and with apnea you can became an integral part of water. In this case you are water in the water and this is not easy to understand especially for the people who won’t discover apnea but when you are vey relaxed in the water you feel this sensation you lose the body, the limit of your body this is a very beautiful experience.”
While becoming a freediving legend and performing superhuman feats are nothing short of amazing, everyone started somewhere. We want to hear about your latest dive or personal achievement no matter how great or small. As strange as it seems, freediving stars like Maric often find just as much inspiration in the small victories achieved by students as you do by listening to these interviews.
What about you? Do you have any freediving adventures you would like to share? Tell us your story in the comments section below!