NEW YORK — A man who grew up in St. Petersburg and broke the U.S. constant weight record for free-diving soon after beginning his competitive career last year died Sunday while participating in a tournament in the Bahamas, police said.
Nicholas Mevoli, 32, who most recently lived in New York's Brooklyn borough, died around 2 p.m. off the coast of the Bahamas' Long Island, southeast of the capital of Nassau, officials said.
The Switzerland-based Association Internationale pour le Développement de l'Apnée, or AIDA, a federation for breath-holding diving, released a statement saying Mevoli reached the 72-meter depth of the no-fins dive, swam back to the surface but had trouble breathing while completing surface protocol.
Free-divers, unlike scuba divers, enter the water without air tanks, regulators and hoses and swim to various depths relying entirely on the air in their lungs.
Mevoli's uncle, Paul Mevoli, said Sunday his nephew was a free spirit who grew up loving swimming and got hooked on diving as an 8-year-old boy on trips to the Florida Keys.
"Nobody could do what he did under the water," said Paul Mevoli, 55, a dentist in St. Petersburg.
It would take him about 2 minutes and 45 seconds to dive down and back up 300 feet of water in just one breath, his uncle said.
"He was very talented," said Paul Mevoli. "Even the people in the free-diving world couldn't believe his skill."
Nicholas Mevoli's Facebook page shows his hometown was St. Petersburg. He worked in the television industry in New York and was writing a screenplay about a young man on a boat and his adventures in the Florida Keys, his uncle said.
Mevoli was an accomplished free-diver, winning or placing highly in various international free-diving tournaments.