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Freediver floats towards freedom

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It’s different down there. Chaotic and calm. Distorted yet comforting. They say that up to 60 per cent of the adult human body is water, and I often wonder if the unwavering attraction of immersing oneself in the ocean isn’t an attempt to swim inside ourselves. To flow within the mind and body in the quest for fluid stability. Speaking with freediver Marlon Quinn, who landed permanently on the Mornington Peninsula about six years ago, you’d wonder why anyone would be scared of delving below to where the beautifully odd creatures flow. 

Marlon explains: “I used to look out over Port Phillip Bay when I lived in Brighton and didn’t have a clue about what was going on beneath this huge moving beast. The environment is constantly changing. Some days I don’t see anything underwater and other days I see everything. Freediving is about being in sync with the environment. I remember someone on the beach saying, ‘We’ll see how many of them come back when the water is cold’. I had my first immersion in winter and now swim about three times a week. Sometimes I’ll do the ‘starfish’ at a bay beach where I might float for half an hour or other times with a snorkel. I used to wear a wetsuit but found it constricting. Now I dive in board shorts. I don’t get cold water shock.”   

So what’s the main attraction for a man who grew up bayside after beginning life in Glen Huntly/Caulfield with his musician father, food-infused mum and sister? Marlon continues: “I didn’t grow up on the beach, even though I was close to it. I didn’t like the sand. I loved skateboarding, though, and jumping off the pontoon near the Elwood Life Saving Club in my early 20s. I only began swimming near the Brighton Baths in my mid 30s. It was about 11 years ago when I met up with an eagle ray and was both scared and captivated. I wanted to understand why I was frightened under water. Why I was relaxed sometimes and at other times anxious.”

This once-stakeholder manager who worked on Public Transport Victoria’s Myki travel extravaganza and whose identity was put through the blender after being retrenched and spending three years struggling to find work, spent 2011 through to 2014 travelling before settling in Blairgowrie. After training with Greek world champion freediver Stavros Kastrinakis in Greece near the Temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounio and diving to 40m in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, with Italian world champion freediver Umberto Pelizzari, Marlon’s desire to look further inside was set in sinuous stone. 

“The longest I’ve held my breath is five minutes. My mate calls it controlled drowning – ha! – but I find it completely invigorating. You’re calm but aware and achieve a state of acceptance. You also get to explore the coastal shelves which are millions of years old and meet smooth rays, Port Jackson sharks, seals and spider crabs. I’ve dived in Egypt, France, Italy, Malaysia, The Solomons and all around Australia, but it’s all about how you use the water here in Bass Strait.”  

Sounds like this blogging, cycling, photo-taking, video-making enthusiast has got freedom sorted. And yes, the irony of this flipper-footed man’s name hasn’t eluded me. Replace the ‘o’ in his first name with an ‘i’ and you get? Just saying.


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