The film FREE FALL, uploaded to YouTube, to date, has 26 million views, and has spawned its star a Naughty Boy-
Beyoncé video, “Runnin’.”
It begins with French freediving world champion Guillaume Néry underwater, standing at the precipice of Dean’s Blue Hole in
the Bahamas, the second deepest known saltwater blue hole that plunges to a depth of 202 meters.
Guillaume takes a leap, and the camera follows him to the depths, without a breathing apparatus.
“A journey between two breaths,” he describes it quite aptly in a TEDxToulouse talk. The darkness is calming for some, terrifying for others. Even more so when you factor in the tons of water engulfing you. Engloutis.
“This is how he does all the amazing things he does underwater —walking, jumping, flying—he empties his lungs,” describes Julie Gautier.
She says so without as much as an acknowledgement to her own display of amazing skill, because it suddenly dawns on you that Julie, herself a competitive freediver, actually films her partner and father to her daughter, four-year-old Mai-Lou, while on breath hold, too.
In fact, Julie’s camera angles make it seem like there are several filming Guillaume, when in fact she does so herself with just one. “This was the very first one we made, because we had a camera with a housing. But what do I do? I’ve never held a camera before! We were in the Bahamas. Let’s
“This was the very first one we made, because we had a camera with a housing. But what do I do? I’ve never held a camera before! We were in the Bahamas. Let’s make a movie!
He had this idea of going into the blue hole and we started shooting. He was walking and jumping. We built the entire story day by day. And we’d look at night and see what angles we missed out, so we’d go back and do that.”
Again, just to underscore this fact: on a single breath of air.
Guillaume can hold his breath, static, therefore without moving, for as long as eight minutes. Julie, who represented her home in freediving championships, Reunion Island ( a French island in the Indian Ocean), for as long as six. “She was already diving to a depth of 20
meters when she was 11 years old,” exclaims Guillaume proudly. “Ah, but because my father
“Ah, but because my father was a spearfisher,” Julie nonchalantly brushes it off.
The couple are in the Philippines for a two-month campaign upon the invitation of the Department of Tourism’s Dive Market Development Team, offering freediving workshops throughout spots deemed perfect for the sport: Bohol, Coron, El Nido, and Moalboal, Cebu.
“The Philippines is perfect for freediving because it has the following: warm waters all year round, not too much current, deep dives close to the shore, and teeming marine wildlife to enjoy,” Guillaume sums up at the press conference at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa.
I confess to Guillaume that I tried holding my breath, static, in fact over lunch with him just a few feet from me, and could not get past
30 seconds. “People always THINK that is what they are capable of doing.
But I guarantee you, I can teach you to hold your breath for at least two minutes. One on one with me in the pool. Two minutes.”
My overt flirting didn’t go unnoticed, but DOT Usec. Bong Bengzon —a scuba diver—had a better take on it: “It’s exactly what DOT
is hoping to do, to go beyond your limits or what you think you can achieve.”
And just like that, he put us right back on track.
(Watch Guillaume and Julie’s underwater films on www.lesfilmsengloutis.com and join the workshops in Moalboal this Aug. 4 to 6 by reaching out to DOT Dive Philippines on Facebook and @DOTDivePhilippines on Instagram)