Mullins set for another breathtaking swim

PACKING A BIG BREATH: David Mullins.
PACKING A BIG BREATH: David Mullins.

If you think swimming a length of your local pool underwater is a task, then watching David Mullins will take your breath away.

Mild-mannered office worker by day, Mullins will swap his suit for a pair of fins and become the Man from Atlantis at Porirua Aquatic Centre this weekend.

One of the world's leading freedivers, Mullins, 29, will try to smash two of his national records, before summoning official judges from across the globe for a world record attempt in September.

The disciplines are officially termed dynamic apnoea, with and without fins: basically, swimming as far as you can without taking a breath. And remaining conscious.

"You get disqualified if you black out or can't converse, otherwise people just go until they conk out," Mullins said.

His national records stand at 248m with fins, and 232m without fins. That's nearly 10 lengths of the 25m pool at Porirua, which takes just over 4 minutes with fins or 4min 30sec without. All this with a 6.5kg weight on his neck and more ballast around his waist to keep him low in the water.

The 2m-tall Mullins' lung capacity, and his ability to expand it for competition, is his not-so-secret weapon. His record for static apnoea stands at 8min 07sec.

"The term is called packing; you use your mouth and throat as a pump to force more air in on top of a breath," he explained. "I'm getting about an extra 3.5 litres, which takes me up to just over 15 litres . The average capacity for my height is around 6-7 litres. I've got about 215 per cent of the expected [capacity] for my height."

It's a simple formula to be a successful freediver: big lungs, low body temperature.

Mullins chose Porirua because its water temperature was slightly warmer at 28-29 degrees Celsius.

The world record, with fins, is his toughest task and stands at 255m. He set his 248m record in September 2008.

"I should go close, but there's a fair bit to make up."

But if he tops 255m on Sunday it won't be recognised as a world record. That's why he's searching for sponsors to cover the costs of flying in judges and undergoing a World Anti-Doping Agency test for his official world record attempt at the 50m Naenae Pool in late September.

Mullins works at the Social Development Ministry, and trains for about one hour a day after work. He does 200-250m in underwater laps, increasing to short, sharp sessions to increase his capacity.

He holds 12 national records in four disciplines, and four world records in two disciplines.

His ambition is to crack the world record in the blue riband event of freediving, the constant weight discipline in open water.

At A Glance

David Mullins

Age: 29.

Home: Wellington.

Sport: Freediving, since 2004.

Personal bests: Horizontal distance: 248m with fins, 232m without fins (both NZ records).

Time: 8:07 minutes static.

Depth: 118m constant weight (ranked third in world behind Austria's Herbert Nitsch, 124m).

The Dominion Post