Legend has it that Madagascar’s nomadic Vezo fishermen can spend several minutes underwater with a single breath. Photographer James Patrick joins them in an attempt to separate fact from fiction—and perhaps catch some fish of his own.  

My right arse cheek is balanced on the narrow edge of the canoe. An uncomfortable wooden slat under my neck supports the rest of my body weight. Sleep is not forthcoming. The seconds slow in the breezeless sun while I contemplate the futility of my contortion.

Painfully readjusting again, I catch sight of the gently snoring fishermen fore and aft. Their equally contorted bodies affirm my suspicions. This discomfort doesn’t stem from my failure to appreciate the ergonomics of a hollowed-out tree trunk, but from my utter unsuitability to the hardships of Vezo life.

These nomadic fishermen have spent the last few centuries navigating the lonely beaches and desert islands of Madagascar’s west coast in outrigger canoes. Although the remote beauty of this coast has brought a scattering of five-star hotels, their luxuries belie the unforgiving environment that has forged the superhuman capacities of the Vezo.