ROME — Enzo Maiorca, a legend in free diving, died on Sunday in his native Sicily. He was 85.
Giancarlo Garozzo, mayor of Syracuse in Sicily, said Maiorca died there but didn’t cite cause of death.
Maiorca’s friendly rivalry with diver Jacques Mayol inspired much of a 1988 film, “The Big Blue,” directed by Luc Besson. The two divers competed against each other starting in 1966, taking turns as the record holder for free diving.
When they reached 249 feet (about 73 meters) in 1970, the International Federation ruled the depths too dangerous and refused to accept further records.
Italian media, who had dubbed Maiorca the “lord of the abysses,” reported that when Maiorca was 57 he dove to a depth of 101 meters (373 feet).
After quitting competitive diving, an Italian navy statement says, Maiorca dedicated himself to protecting the marine environment.
Maiorca has said he abandoned spear fishing after he felt the beating heart of a grouper he had speared and was trying to capture.
“I tried my best but the fish was simply fighting to survive,” DIVER magazine quoted him as saying in 2014.
Maiorca was quoted as saying he did scuba diving into his 80s, but that his free-diving days were behind him.
The Sicilian newspaper Il Giornale di Sicilia said Maiorca learned to swim at age 4 but quoted him as saying he had “a great fear of the sea.”