Breaking Records at 60: Meet Freediving Legend, David Mellor

British freediver David Mellor has achieved more in his sixtieth year than most do in a lifetime. This year, David has obtained four world records in the over 60s category, and he became the first person of his age to dive to 100 meters deep... And he tells us he has no plans to stop yet!

We reached out to David to find out more about his incredible year of smashing records, including his journey leading up to this point, and his plans for the future.

1. David Mellor, you have been on fire in recent competitions! Please tell us what your latest records are and where you achieved them.

"I recently took part in the CMAS world championships in Roatan, Honduras. I performed in all four disciplines, and I entered in the "Masters" category, which is for over fifties. The category is split into age groups: 50-54, 55-59 and 60-64. I turned 60 this year, and my goal was to do 100 meters in free immersion in that competition, I did not mind what else I did.

As it turned out though, I achieved four PBs (personal bests) in all four disciplines, and they were all world records for that age category, but the 100 meters in free immersion was an absolute world record for over fifties."´

The four disciplines that David Mellor is referring to are:

Free Immersion (FIM): In Free Immersion freediving, you pull your body down and up the dive line using only your hands.

Constant weight (CWT): In this type of freediving, you swim down and up the dive line using a monofin over both of your feet.

Constant Weight Bi-fins (CWTB): This involves swimming down and up the dive line using a fin on each foot.

Constant Weight No Fins (CNF): This is where you swim down and up the dive line using a technique similar to breaststroke - with no fins or pulling to help. No-fins freediving gives an amazing sense of freedom!

David Mellor achieved the following PB dives at the competition:

  • FIM: 100 meters. 
  • CWT: 80 meters. 
  • CWTB: 85 meters.
  • CNF: 60 meters.

2. You are the first man of your age to perform a 100-meter dive in competition. How does it feel? Has this always been a goal of yours?

"I am the first man of my age to do a 100-meter dive in competition. As far as I know, no one else has ever done that, so of course I am very proud. It was not always a goal of mine, but when my sixtieth birthday was coming up, I thought, maybe I could be the oldest man ever to do 100 meters, which sounded quite nice.

So then I made it a goal, and I was very pleased and proud once I achieved it. But it is not the end for me; I am still motivated to go deeper, and I do not want to be known just as the sixty-year-old deepest diver in the world. I actually want to break British records unrelated to age and compete against all ages and still do well."

Do you have a full set of freediving equipment? Freediving Gear: 9 Must-Have Items for Every Freediver.

3. How and when did you first discover freediving? And why did you decide to continue with it to the level you are at now?

"I started freediving around 11 years ago when I did my first courses, which were the SSI level one and level two freediving programs (now renamed Freediver and Advanced Freediver) which I completed in the UK.

I continued on to do the SSI level three (now renamed Performance Freediver), in Dahab, Egypt. I really only completed the courses because I was already spearfishing regularly and knew I was not doing it right. I knew there was a better way so I decided a freediving course would be the way to learn about freediving better, and it certainly was!

After my first course, I had doubled my breath hold and doubled my depth PB, and really got hooked on freediving from then on. After my level three course I decided to become an SSI Freediving instructor and started to teach in the UK.

At that time, I had no plans to compete, I was happy being an instructor and I told myself that I would never want to go any deeper than 50 meters, but then a fellow instructor asked me if I was interested in doing a pool competition.

I decided to do it just so that I could tell my students how it feels to compete and give them advice if they wanted to compete. But after the first competition, I totally got hooked on competitions and I decided that is what I wanted to do; compete and get better at the sport."

Related: 5 Reasons Why You Need to Go Freediving in Dahab.

4. David Mellor, you turned 60 this year. It is rare for sportspeople of your age to achieve national and world records? Most professional athletes retire in their late twenties. Why do you think this is possible in freediving? What skills are involved that might set it apart?...Or are you just a superhero?

"Yes, I am just a superhero… haha. No, I think breaking records and competing even in my sixtieth year, I think it is possible because it is all about relaxation and it is not all about strength.

There are lots of different aspects to freediving and I think being slightly mature is not a massive disadvantage. The only disadvantage I can see is that younger athletes can train harder, and their recovery time is quicker. But if I train carefully and know my limits then there is no reason why I cannot keep competing for another five or six years."

5. A little birdy told us you are currently at the World Championships in Limassol. How is the competition going? Any big dives?

"Yes, I am currently in Limassol in Cyprus competing in the AIDA world championships. My training did not go so well; I have done a lot of training this year in warmer waters; in Panglao and in Dahab, and also in Roatan. I am finding the colder water here a little more difficult to cope with. My relaxation is not so good, so therefore my equalization is not so good, and it is reflected in my performances.

I was happy with my first dive, I managed 61 meters in CNF, which is a new PB, but because of my equalization issues, I tried to be more conservative for my bi-fins dive. I announced 83 meters, but I turned early at 79 meters because of equalization. I had hoped to go for the British national record for FIM which is 102 meters, but I have unfortunately had to rein my expectations in."

You do not have to compete to enjoy freediving. Check this out: Unleash Your Inner Explorer – 4 Great Ways to Go Freediving.

6. Can you tell us a bit about your training schedule for freediving? Do you train year-round or only in the lead up to competitions? Where in the world do you like to train?

"I focus my training on the lead up to competitions, so two months before a competition I start hitting the gym hard; lots of running, lots of dry exercises, and then I go to where I will be diving about four weeks before to try to adapt to the conditions there, both in the water and dry.

New food, new climate, new surroundings etc. can all make a difference. I try to structure my training so that I peak in competition. I do not train year-round, but I do try to maintain a certain level. I go to Dahab, Egypt a lot to train, but I love to experience new places, too."

7. What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome on your journey to becoming a world record holder? How long did it take you to get to the level you are at now?

"It has taken around five years, since my first competition, to reach the level I am at now, but I would say around three years ago is when I properly started to train. The biggest obstacle has always been equalization for me, and it still is. Some people never have to work on it, but I have to work on it all the time. I have made progress but that is still my main block."

8. Do you have any advice for people looking to take up freediving in retirement?

"My advice is to just go for it, do not compare yourself to anyone else, do a freediving course and just enjoy it. You do not need to push yourself.

Freediving allows you to meet good people in nice places in the world, it keeps you healthy and in good shape, but you do not have to be super fit to do it. You do not need to dive deep; it can just be a way to enjoy the water."

If you are heading towards retirement and are inspired by David Mellor’s lifestyle, check this out: Learning to Dive After Retirement.

9. Do you offer personal coaching for other freedivers who are looking to start competing?

"Yes, I have had personal freediving coaching from four or five top-level coaches myself, and I have taken bits of advice from each of them and used it all in my own coaching to help others.

On my journey to diving to 100 meters, I have come across lots of obstacles and blocks and I have overcome them all, so I feel I am quite qualified all around to coach others. I would not say that I am a natural freediver, I have worked hard, and I think you learn a lot more from failures you experience. I feel that is what makes me a good coach."  

David Mellor certainly is an inspirational freediver who has proven that life does not stop after retirement. In fact, it can be the start of something incredible!

If you are interested in learning to freedive or spearfish with David, or you are already an athlete looking for coaching, check out his website Apex Apnea or Instagram account @kuenok to find out more.