French freediving record-holder: Sea is under threat

Record-breaking French freediving champion Guillaume Néry discusses multiple threats to the world’s oceans – and how we can save them – with Jane Hanks

Guillaume Néry, 37, is a French freediving champion. For him freediving is much more than a sport, and is closer to being an art form. With his partner, Julie Gautier, and daughter, Maï-Lou, seven, he has travelled the world’s oceans making films, written books and now campaigns to save the ocean life he loves from pollution and overfishing.

How deep can you dive?

I have broken the world record four times and I have been world champion twice.

My personal record is 139m, but it was not counted because I was unconscious when I came up, but that is the deepest freedive ever.

It happened because of an error in measuring the rope so that I went 10m deeper than I should have done.

It could have killed me, but fortunately I was well prepared and in the end it was not such a bad accident.

I had a break from competitions for three years and last year I started again by taking part in one in Nice and now I am training for the World Championships.

This time my approach is quite different. It is a personal quest and I have no expectation of records and depth – it is really about my own quest, more about my way of life.

How did you start?

It happened on the school bus when I was 14 and I challenged my friend to see who could hold their breath the longest.

It was a game, with a watch. I lost, so I decided to train in bed to win next time and this game ...

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