Enzo Maiorca

Enzo Maiorca (21 June 1931 – 13 November 2016) was an Italian free diver who held several world records.

Enzo Maiorca
Born(1931-06-21)21 June 1931[1]
Died13 November 2016(2016-11-13) (aged 85)
Syracuse, Sicily


Maiorca was born in Syracuse, Sicily, where he also died in 2016.[2] Maiorca was a vegetarian .

In 1977, Maiorca was initiated to the Italian Scottish Rite Freemasonry at the regular Lodge "Archimede di Siracusa"[3]. It was in the obedience of the Grand Orient of Italy, that in 2017 publicly revealed this element of his biography.[4]


Maiorca learned to swim at age 4 and soon began to dive, although expressing a great fear of the sea. In 1956 a friend showed him an article about a new depth record of 41 meters set by spearfishing champions Ennio Falco and Alberto Novelli. Maiorca was led by the article to begin competing in order to achieve the title of the "man who reaches the deepest." He achieved this in 1960, when he reached 45 meters to beat Brazilian Americo Santarelli. That same year, however, Santarelli reclaimed the title by reaching 46 meters, which Maiorca soon surpassed at 49 meters.

In 1967 Maiorca ceased spearfishing, while still competing in freediving. He explained in an interview why he abandoned spearfishing:

"It all happened suddenly. I was diving in the shallows not far from the cape that reaches out to the open sea south of the bay of Syracuse. That morning I happened to spear a grouper. A strong and combative grouper. On the bottom a real titanic struggle broke out, between me who wanted to take its life and the grouper who tried to save itself. The grouper was caught in a cavity between two rocks; trying to understand its position, I ran my right hand down the fish's belly. Its heart was pounding in terror, mad with fear. And with that pulsing of blood I realized that I was killing a living being. Since then my speargun lies like a derelict, an archaeological item, in the dusty basement of my house. That was in 1967."

On 22 September 1974, in the Bay of Ieranto (or 'Jeranto') at the western end of the Gulf of Salerno, Maiorca attempted to establish a new world record for freediving, aiming for 90 meters. The event was televised live, for the first time in the history of RAI (the Italian national broadcaster). Just 6 meters into his dive, Maiorca bumped into Enzo Bottesini, an expert scuba instructor, and upon resurfacing he let out a string of strong expletives, many of which were clearly audible to the television audience. His outburst led to a television ban for many years, and led to his retirement from competition for more than a decade.

In 1988, Maiorca returned to free diving and set his final record of 101 meters.

Maiorca's main rivals were the Brazilian Amerigo Santarelli (who retired from the sport in 1963), Teteke Williams, Robert Croft, and Jacques Mayol.


From 1994 to 1996, Maiorca was elected to the Senate for the Alleanza Nazionale party. Maiorca also appeared on Lineablu, a RAI broadcast news series, from 2000 to 2002. The character Enzo Molinari, portrayed by Jean Reno, in the 1988 Luc Besson film The Big Blue was based on Maiorca.[5]


Variable buoyancy

  • 1960 September depth 45 Meters
  • 1960 November depth 49 Meters
  • 1962 August depth 51 Meters
  • 1964 August depth 53 Meters
  • 1965 August depth 54 Meters
  • 1966 November depth 62 Meters
  • 1967 September depth 64 Meters
  • 1968 August depth 69 Meters
  • 1969 August depth 72 Meters
  • 1970 August depth 74 Meters
  • 1971 August depth 77 Meters
  • 1972 August depth 78 Meters
  • 1973 August depth 80 Meters
  • 1974 September depth 87 Meters
  • 1986 depth 91 Meters
  • 1987 depth 94 Meters
  • 1988 depth 101 Meters

Constant weight

  • August 1961 50 Meters
  • August 1972 57 Meters
  • August 1973 58 Meters
  • September 1976 60 Meters
  • 1978 52 Meters (new regulation)
  • 1979 55 Meters


  • Gold Medal of the President of the Republic (1964) for athletic prowess
  • Ustica Golden Trident
  • CONI's Literary Award for his book Headlong into the Blue (1976)
  • Sport merits Gold Star from CONI
  • Gold Medal of Merit Marina (not only for sports but also for the defense of the environment, 2006)
  • His 80th birthday was celebrated in La Spezia with the conferring of the Award of the Maritime Festival.


Maiorca was the author of several books:

  • Headlong into the Blue: The Life and Business of a World Record. Milan, ed. Murcia, 1977.
  • School Apnea. Rome, ed. Cuba, 1982.
  • The Sea with a Capital S. Lights, 2001.
  • Under the Sign of Tanit. Milan, Murcia, 2011 ISBN 9788842548799

Film and music

  • Maiorca co-starred as himself in the film Challenge on the Bottom (1975), directed by Melchiade Coletti.
  • The match between Maiorca and Jacques Mayol inspired the film Le Grand Bleu by Luc Besson. Filmed in 1988, the movie The Big Blue was shown in Italy only in 2002 due to Maiorca's objections. Recognizing his own caricature in the character of Enzo Molinari, Maiorca considered his appearance detrimental to his image. After the death in 2001 of Jacques Mayol and Maiorca's retirement from competitions, he relented, and the film was shown.
  • Quoted by the protagonist of the film I Am Self Sufficient (1976) by Nanni Moretti.
  • Mentioned in the song "The Ballad of Cimino" by Davide Van de Sfroos.
  • Cited by the plaintiff Guido Nickel in the film Monte Carlo Grand Casino.

See also


  1. Biografia Enzo Morio Archived 2017-05-03 at the Wayback Machine (in Italian)
  2. È morto l’apneista Enzo Maiorca (in Italian)
  3. "Massoneria, Gran Loggia 2017: il Gran Maestro omaggia Arnoldo Foà e Enzo Maiorca". blitzquotidiano.it (in Italian). Archived from the original on Mar 31, 2017. Retrieved Apr 6, 2017.
  4. "Gran Loggia 2017. Massoneria e i suoi trecento anni di modernità, una mostra ricorda i massoni protagonisti del Novecento". Grand Orient of Italy (in Italian). Apr 4, 2017. Archived from the original on March 22, 2017. Retrieved Oct 6, 2018.
  5. http://www.thelocal.it/20161113/big-blue-freediver-enzo-maiorca-dies-in-sicily


  • Dialogue on 50 years of television among Marino Bartoletti and Paul Limits (3rd chapter). TV Smiles and Canzoni.com, 7 January 2004. Retrieved on 24 November 2010.
  • card activity to the Senate
  • Umberto Veronesi, Towards the vegetarian choice, Giunti Editore, 2011, p. 8. ISBN 978-88-09-76687-7
  • Quoted in Lawrence Guadagnucci, Remain Animals, Terre di mezzo, Milan, 2012, p. 72. ISBN 978-88-6189-224-8
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