World Champion Freediver, continually pushing himself to new depths
"Everything in your body and mind is connected; the feeling of your skin, the sound, the pressure on your lungs, your ears...it is like being a part of the element. There's no better feeling."
When and why did you start diving?
I grown up near the sea, in Monaco. It was easy for me to jump in the ocean every day. My father was a champion freediver and spearfisher in the 60’s and taught us the love of the sea and importance of protecting marine life. At the same time, he was afraid and tried to stop my brother and I from being in the water every day, because we were young and attracted by the sea, the fish and the depth. He was not pushing me to be a better freediver, and as a young boy, i didn’t understood why. I imagined he had hidden a treasure or a secret in the ocean….so i used to go in the sea, alone with my brother, instead of going to school :-) We wanted to discover what the secret was…… and day after day, year after year, the ocean and the Mediterranean sea became my playground, my universe, my life…..that’s, in fact, the secret i discovered: being in the water every day to become the water.
Most memorable dive experience?
I was teaching children to swim, freedive and photograph Humpback Whales. I was with a young girl, Tara, and we were photographing a female (14 meters long) and her baby (4 meters long). In a quick moment, Tara escaped me and swam after the young whale, who wanted to play with her. But the baby whale was between me and Tara. It was impossible for me to act or protect Tara. In less than 30 seconds, the big female saw what was happening, and came just under me and stopped her baby with her pectoral, looking me in the eyes, saying, "Ok, I'll take care of my baby, go and take yours". Her stare was so soft, so comforting, so peaceful. So I went on the other side, took Tara with me and the whales stayed during this long minute with pectorals out of the sea, creating a real wall. Just after that, she slowly raised her pectoral in the sea, pushing her baby away from us to be sure that we were safe.
What steps are you taking to improve the health of our oceans? Any advice for others who want to help?
I manage three schools dedicated to children. We teach them diving, freediving and how to protect the ocean. We teach children how to build a sustainable future. Hoping that the future we promise them is much better than the present we are bequeathing to them. Give them the power to use the right tools to make their own masterpieces. AND not just be very good divers, very good swimmers, or very good aquatic rescuers. We hope that they become accomplished children, accomplished teenagers, future adults, ready to live and evolve in this special society.