I caught up with freediving wunderkind Martin Stepanek at Miami International Airport, arriving with the Performance Freediving Team from a stunning 90 meter free immersion world record event on Grand Cayman.
Martin is 24 years old and his nationality is Czech Republic.
PK: Why did you become involved in freediving
MS: I always liked to be in the water. I learned to swim before I learned to walk. My mom wanted me to be a competitive swimmer, and started me down that path as a kid. Well, one day at the pool I saw a group of guys come in with these metal tanks and strange looking equipment. They told they were divers, and I went home that day and told my mom to forget competitive swimming. I was going to be a diver ! Our scuba club also had a monofin team, and it turned out I was pretty good at that. I made the national team and competed in college as well. That’s when I found out I was able to hold my breath pretty long, and after I saw a video with Pelizzari and Pipin, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. It did not come easily – it took six long years before I was finally able to come to the States, link up with Kirk Krack and begin to learn freediving for real.
PK: How often do you train ?
MS: When I am in a training cycle, 6 days a week. About 1 ?? hours a day at beginning of the cycle, and up to 4 hours a day toward the end.
PK: What is a typical day in your training routine ?
MS: Depends where I am in the cycle and which freediving discipline I’m training for, but in general, I do cardio in the morning and apnea in the afternoon. The apnea training might involve underwater swimming sprints, static apnea tables, or weights if I am training for free immersion or constant ballast.
PK: Do you have any dietary advice that might help our readers’ training ?
MS: For me it is important to eat organic foods, because I think that keeping away from the artificial colors, flavors and other additives is more important than fine tuning carbs, fats and so on. Try to keep to a balanced diet, generally low in fats and high in carbs. I think our bodies know what they need, and if we learn how to listen to what our bodies are telling us, we will eat the things that are right.
PK: Where do you mainly train ?
MS: I’ve been training mainly in the gym and swimming pool. I trained up for my static apnea record (8:06) and free immersion record in Fort Lauderdale. The free immersion training, naturally, included a number of open water dives – fewer than you might think, though. The key was the gym and pool training.
PK: What is your favorite freediving discipline ?
MS: The one I haven’t had chance to compete in ! Constant ballast !
PK: What was your most memorable dive ?
MS: Hard to say, because all dives are very emotional for me. I think would have to say the most memorable was my first deep dive in open ocean, which was only about a year ago ! It was a 30 meter dive I made as a Performance Freediving clinic student. I found myself for the first time in the place I’d been dreaming of for so long: surrounded by blue, just me and the ocean. Incredible !
PK: What advice would you interested in the sport of freediving ?
MS: Learn before you go ! Don’t just jump in and go it alone. I waited for 6 years to find proper instruction and supervision before attempting this, and it was the right thing to do. Safety should always come first, and safety comes from knowledge. I was lucky to be introduced to this sport in a Performance Freediving clinic, and recommend to anyone interested in getting in to this to seek qualified instruction.
PK: What do you do outside of the sport ?
MS: Lately, with the training, I have not had time for much else! Come to think of it, I’ve never had time for much outside of diving. I’m a commercial diver by profession, have been a competitive monofin swimmer, and now I’m building a career in freediving. I’ve spent my life in the water ! And it is fine with me.