A French national born in Shanghais China in 1927, Jacques Mayol was known as the ‘Dolphin Man’ due to his underwater exploits in the field of free diving along with the special relationships he developed with dolphins.

Mayol’s fascination with the sea arose from a close friendship with a dolphin named Clown at the Seaquarium in Miami, Florida, where he was sent from Radio Canada as a journalist to both research an article and produce an audio piece. The director of Programs and Events at the Seaquarium invited him to stay. Mayol accepted and began working on the maintenance of the tanks and the dietary concerns of the various marine creatures. At the same time, he was also given permission to dive in the big tank with all of the dolphins including one destined to become his special friend, Clown.

Clown taught Mayol how to hold his breath longer on every dive, how to behave underwater, and how to integrate himself with the water totally and finally, how to laugh inside. Thanks to these lessons, he also integrated the powers of Yoga and Oriental philosophies with his dive skills, disciplines he first became aware of while growing up in Japan. This emotional and psychological discipline opened the path that led to his record setting 100 meter dive.

Occurring in 1976, this dive was, to say the least, a momentous occasion. It laid down the gauntlet, putting out the challenge for the next individual willing to pick up the glove.

This dive was part of a long-running rivalry with Italian diver Enzo Maiorca, the first man to dive below 50 meters. Jacques Mayol’s dive shattered that record. The rivalry lasted over ten years, years which saw free-dive depths double. Ultimately, this competition was the inspiration for Luc Besson’s film ’The Big Blue’, a film which led to notoriety for both ocean champions, Mayol and Maiorca. It is a movie well worth searching for and viewing.

In 1981, Mayol, during a test for Omega’s new Seamaster 120 watch, dived to 101 meters, thus breaking his own record. In 1983 Mayol decided to step away from the challenge. At 56 years of age he had reached a depth of 105 meters, had broken every record on the books and made a personal decision hand the mantle over to the young lions.


Mayol dived most of his life out of a love of the ocean, an expression of his personal philosophy and a desire to explore his limits. He did so in an admirable fashion. His efforts enriched the world of free diving by including an entire philosophy, a state of mind based on relaxation and Yoga, now known as ‘Apnea Diving’. He also contributed to technological advances in the field of diving, particularly with regard to the assemblies used by “no limit” free divers to reach the depths, survive and return to the surface. His contributions to this highly demanding sport are inestimable. All ocean explorers owe him a huge debt of gratitude

Mayol shared his vision for the future in his book ‘Homo Delphinus’, now available in the USA from Idelson Gnocchi Publsihers, Florida under the tile ‘Homo Delphinus’. ‘The Dolphin Within Man’. The term Homo Delphinus refers to individuals who are aquatic as a dolphin, share the same love of the ocean and recognize the importance of protecting it and keeping it pure. Mayol believed that people will be some day be capable of swimming at depths of 200 meters and holding their breath for up to ten minutes. That day will come.

Today World champions like Umberto Pelizzari and Pipin have nearly twice the lung capacity of Jacques and have reached almost twice the depth Jacques achieved. Tanya Streeter, a female free diver, has descended deeper, striking a breathtaking 525 feet. No person can predict what the future will bring, but we do know this, pioneers like Jacques will take us there.

This was Jacques’s favorite quote: “One day babies of the future will be reconnected to the aquatic evolutionary past. They will be totally in harmony with the sea and diving and playing at great depth with their marine cousins, holding the breath for a long period of time and giving birth in the sea even in the presence of dolphins. Homo Delphinus is not just a concept.”

Chapeaus off to you Jacques! You did us proud.