Diving with the oxygen of a single breath in your lungs. Why do you put yourself through that type of suffering?
I started as a child. I used to spend the summers by the sea, with my grandparents. When I was growing up, I would try to dive further down each time. I believe that the suffering comes when there is a lack of training or being in too much of a hurry to get results.
Do our bodies adapt better to adverse conditions than we expect them to?
Definitely. The human body has incredible capacities for adaptation. It adapts to cold, heat, pressure, altitude... it just needs a bit of time to adapt, sometimes, and we live in a society where everyone is in a hurry. If you hurry to climb Everest you put yourself in danger. It's the same in the sea.
Is apnea diving only for extreme athletes?
No, it's suitable for anybody. Once you start, it's like a path. You have to work on yourself to progress, physically but also very much on a mental and emotional level.
How do you handle the fear?
Fear handles itself. It's not that difficult. What happens is that most people reject fear. When they feel a bit afraid of something they run away and hide from it. You have to experience fear so you learn, bit by bit, to overcome it.
Have you ever been afraid while apnea diving?
You always feel slightly afraid, but that is also what makes it exciting. Knowing that through inner strength and confidence in your training, you can beat the fear.
What is it that you're looking for under the water?
I guess freedom and happiness. It's almost something spiritual. Apnea is my way of trying to achieve it. The water is traditionally home to our greatest fears. It hides what we don't know.
You're not trying to feed your ego?
Ego was when I was 20 years old. I'm 45 now. Everyone likes people to say well done, you're so strong, you're the best...I've had enough of that now.
Water is a strange element for humans, it's not our natural habitat.
Well, maybe so... but we spend the first nine months of our lives in our mother's womb, in a liquid. In evolution, life has moved from being in water to being on land. Then, man has always gone back to the sea to look for food.
How much fight or conflict is there with your body when you apnea dive?
For me, apnea doesn't have to be a fight. It has to be a dance with the element of water. When you feel the water caress you, you feel your muscles working, but without fighting.
Where is the limit?
The limit is different every day. It depends on the moment and also on our preparation. For me, pushing the limits is a way of feeling more free. It's the result of work. You don't get up in the morning and say "I want to break a record today". It's a challenge you set yourself and carry on working towards it.
Isn't there a part of your body that resists every time you dive? An inner voice that says you're crazy?
That happens. It's the animal part of your body that speaks to you, the survival instinct. Thanks to meditation I have learned to see what is a natural healthy instinct and what is a momentary paranoia.
What goes through your mind when you're diving?
It depends, but what I really try to do is slow down my thoughts and enter into a meditative state.
Does the Earth change when you see it from the depths of the sea?
Your perception is like being in space. You are in the deepest darkness, but you are connected with your deepest being and your most animal being, which is what then takes you back up to the surface again. It's reliving the most childlike instinct. The baby pushing to get out of its mother's womb.
What does the first breath of air taste like when you surface?
It tastes of life.