I started quite late apnea, at the age of 21 years, while I was still in Poitiers during my university studies. I’m talking apnea club, i.e. a poorly structured. I had the chance to travel a lot with my parents so I always did a little snorkeling, diving and spearfishing when I was traveling around the Mediterranean. Otherwise, apnea as I practice today I started at age of 21.
- What led you to practice apnea?
I did a lot of swimming when I was young and also a lot of basketball for 12 years, until my university studies. I was at the Faculty of Sport Sciences of Poitiers and I wanted after some time, return to underwater activities. When I was a teenager I started to pass diving levels, but scuba diving and I contacted a club that had an apnea section. I tried out to do some laps with this structure called the “Subaqua Club du Poitou”. They made training in the pool and I liked it! So much that I decided to make my subject of study because I wanted to go to a scientific way. After, I worked for 2 years on cardiovascular physiology of man in apnea.
- What are the figures that you admire the most in this sport?
At the time, there was not really a character that inspired me, I had actually seen the movie “The Big Blue” like everyone had, but this is not the film that made me want to practice. It’s true that when I started to really enjoy the apnea I didn’t have idols or iconic characters that stand out or pushed to go the discipline. In fact, I didn’t know a lot in this sport… I learned later, during my practice, what were the champions at the time and iconic sporting in this discipline.
- What led you to the competition?
I was already went down to Marseille to continue to practice, this time at sea and continue my studies in this sport. Few years later, especially in 2005 I had my first team selection in France because I had some interesting results. I did my first competition in 2001 and progressively years until my first selection in 2005. I started doing competitions at this time and just because my results from training were quite interesting in relation to that was already being done at the time in competition. So I figured, why not try…
- What do you like about this sport?
What I really like, it’s all the physical preparation, I base on practical non-apnea i.e. I do a lot of sports in side, to be good in apnea. We have the same preparation with Guillaume Nery, who is freediver in Nice that I know very well, and appreciate, and it’s true that we exchange a lot on our practices. Actually we have a way to exercise that covers a very wide range of activity. So for me it goes from trail running, to bike, by muscle development training, lots of swimming and of course also the specific training whatsoever apnea in the pool, at sea, but also exercise with training bike for reproducing hypoxic training sessions …
- What type of apnea you practice? And why?
I practice all disciplines as I train in the pool and sea. I started of course in pool because I began to Poitiers and inevitably the sea was a bit far (laughs). I practice all disciplines because when I am selected in the France team for the world championships team, you must be able to play 3 competitions who are: static apnea, dynamic apnea, and apnea in constant weight. It has 3 main component of apnea, i.e. the distance, time and depth, so all these disciplines are part of my training. After it’s true that I have specialized myself in apnea without fins, swim breaststroke whether in a pool or sea. My title of world champion in individual I had in 2013 is actually in constant weight without fins which is now one of my preferred disciplines and in which I have the best results.
- What are the most important to be a good diver qualities?
There are several elements, it is true that it takes a physical and psychological component. The training is very very important to accustom his body to withstand hypoxia and hypercapnia i.e. lack of oxygen and a carbon dioxide level in the body is very important due to the consumption. It also requires mental qualities very important. We think that the mind is almost greater than the physical in this discipline at the base is still against nature as stop breathing, it is contrary to the general biological laws. To work, it needs oxygen and actually our discipline need a voluntary apnea stop breathing. It should therefore also be able to do this mental effort to go against nature and resist the urge to breathe this air that thirst is manifested progressively growing and becoming more and more important before the breakpoint. After indeed mental qualities are very important. Including sea you get in an environment that is dark, cold, you’re usually only the bottom of the water. It is also linked to a collective imagination where we always imagine that « sea monsters » are there. Seabed have always occupied the minds of men, so it is true that in this mental approach is very important.
- How do you prepare yourself before a competition?
So of course all year training sessions are different depending on the competitive stages of the season be it in pool or sea. When approaching a competition actually training becomes more specific and more realistic conditions competition. The general physical and physiological dimension is very important early in the year as and when deadlines are approaching, we spend more and more time in the water, more time apnea, less time on a bike, with sneakers or gym so actually there is specificity of training that approximates optimal conditions of competition. So we will try to do exercises that will bring performance that we would try during competitions. It is closer to our limits either pool or sea … So actually the workouts are becoming more advanced and focus on the conditions of the competition.
- What does material evolution has brought to apnea?
I could speak at the fins where we actually have quite significant technological developments with the advent of carbon structures mono-wing flippers including much more efficient in the water compared to the thermodynamics of fluids. We have propulsion equipment today that has nothing to do with the equipment there 10 or 15 years ago. For the wetsuits, today we are on materials ever finer, more insulated, better cut, that allow for optimal glide. I would say that despite all the progress has been mainly on the human level, where physiological barriers have been extended progressively.
- Among your records, have you a title that you’re more proud than others?
My first title of world champion team in 2008 has been very strong since we are in an individual sport like Davis Cup in tennis where each earns points for his team and not directly on the field, face to his opponent. The apnea team competition is a bit the same, because a team is composed of 3 freedivers who participate to the 3 events that I mentioned earlier, that is to say the constant weight , static apnea and dynamic apnea, in function of his results, each report a number of points to the team. It’s true that my first world championship team in 2008 has been very strong since it was also the logical consequence of a team that had already been made in 2006 when we were bronze. That was the continuation of a story, while we were an outsider on paper. There was really much stronger than us, and therefore the collective dimension has been very strong in the championship … After actually my title of world champion in 2013 was this time, the consecration of a personal effort. It allowed me to have such a little different status today, that is to say that I became semi-professional, since I am a sports teacher in the specialized areas. I was able to pass such half-time in the month of January with some media requests, which were that I could have different money income, including managing my image of world champion. So this title was important, but the title in 2008 was maybe, I say maybe, a bit above.
- Are you aim for a title or a particular record? Which one?
I have the distinction of not necessarily aim for a record or a title or anything. I train personally and I see actually on site if after the training I can do a France record or a World record. Last year when I went to Greece to compete in the World Championship, I was not going here to be World Champion, I went to a podium because I knew that I had the ability. This record of Champion of the world was not provided at the base, or even possible compared to athletes on this championship! So I’ll repeat an international competition in Egypt at the end of the year. I will train for, and if I feel good out there and if I can beat a record France, or be closer to the world record, I will do, but now I leave me choice. This is not an important final goal and I also go because I love the competition, but there is no specific target, we’ll see on the spot how it goes…
- You work with Beuchat since this year, but what is your role with Beuchat?
This year they approached me so to use my field experience and in this way, I became a consultant for the company. Today we are trying to implement such a range of products apnea (suits, fins and other accessories) that don’t exist in the brand and not so much on the market from other brands. We set up workshops to create this product line will be specifically to apneists that they’re competitors, but also for the general public, so we will have different products according to their usefulness.
- What are the brand values for you?
First, it’s a local brand and for me it is very important because I’m pretty attached to the city since I’m on Marseille for 14 years. It is true that being also a regional emblem over the brand is very important to me since I also like this regionalist side. Beuchat also has a pretty important story in the world of diving since it was a pioneer in certain products and acts as a reference in the world of diving in general. It is an honor for me to be a partner in this business.
- How do you choose your materials?
I’m pretty specialized on the material, and especially for the wetsuits because I practice a discipline without fins, who is highly influenced by buoyancy. So the more we have a thinner wetsuit, the less we will must have weight and it will be much easier to navigate. So I always choose fairly thin combinations, often designed to tropical waters. Although Marseille is complicated to have stable conditions, nevertheless when I am terminal phase of my training I have a pretty specialized equipment for the wetsuit to be effective in competitions that I do everywhere in the world. I also use mono-palm which are manufactured by a Russian coach who luckily for me is based in Aix-en-Provence close to Marseille. He’s the supplier of many apneists both in Asia to Europe or the United States, and it begins to be widely known.
- Finally, what is the advice to give to beginners?
First, they must approach structures, clubs that exist throughout France to learn the rudimentary basics of this sport. Then, they mostly never dive alone either pool or sea because in spite of everything it’s a sport that has risks which can be practiced by everyone with a few simple safety rules and it’s also the richness of this sport. But the basic rule is to always practice with a person who may be present if you have a malaise with an apnea too long or for other problem. Especially someone who knows what to do because it’s not question to dive with someone who is just there to watch you. So that’s why we need to approach a club to learn gestures bases and rudimentary safety precautions.