Freediving world champion Arthur Guérin-Boëri on self-transcendence, risk-taking, and mental strength 

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Speaking with Arthur Guérin-Boëri was like taking a poetic dive into his experiences as a freediving world champion. In between breaths you hang in the balance, for a moment, suspended

Arthur is a French freediving world champion, specializing in dynamic apnea. He has won 5 world titles and 4 world records. Described by many as “aqua man”, he is the first person to freedive 300 meters (984 feet), the equivalent to six lengths of a 50 meter (164 feet) Olympic-sized swimming pool. He can hold his breath for 7.30mins in static apnea. He also won a world record on the longest free dive under ice, with a 175 meters (574 feet) swim in the icy waters of a Finnish lake.

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Photo: Courtesy of Alex Voyer

Freediving is a wellbeing sport based 90% on the mind. All about re-centering yourself and learning to go beyond your limits, this is what gives tremendous pleasure for the athlete. Deep introspection, listening to oneself, one’s body and thoughts, one’s own strength, one’s abilities. Freediving is a way of life much needed in our world today: to know how to embrace this life without reservation, cultivate and nurture the relation with your breath, and to surrender to the vast mystery.

We spoke with the freediving world champion about resilience, nutrition, on what it means to be a man these days, about the benefits of apnea and freediving, the need to breathe and the desire to breathe. We  swam between the words, quietly, on the poetry of life.

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN THREE WORDS

Man, dreamer and avenger. An artist also but it goes with dreamer. It is these three words that regroup many of the things for me.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU ?

Passion.

WHAT IS A “CHAMPION” TO YOU ?

Someone who makes people dream. A model. Someone who offers hope to people.

WHO ARE YOU HEROES ?

Corto Maltese, Hank Moody, Rick Deckard.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO FREEDIVING ?

I’ve been really touched by the movie The Big Blue by Luc Besson, which resonates with my personal life. I see myself in the main character. At a young age, life has taught me resilience. This event attracted me to a life on the margins of society, out of the system, with introspective activities, a little bit out of norms. I found in freediving a kind of absence from the everyday life, a way of taming a world that is not ours. I liked it very much.

At a high level, freediving requires exceptional mental capacity, especially that of resilience. I had all the key ingredients to be on top: the philosophy of life with a poetic state of mind plus a sense of adventure and the mental strength to go beyond.

This sport has restructured me, given me a new perspective in life. A practice that appeals to abandonment, one that cuts me off from the normal lifestyle. With it, I found something that allowed me to live in a society that is not built for people like me, imagine: luxury brand ambassador, elite athlete, freediving World Champion, artist, with no mortgage and out of the system.

I have a background as musician singer, I went back to sports after I graduated and at 26 I became interested in freediving. It started in a very simple way. Very quickly I reached a very high level. The rise to the freediving World Champion titles was dazzling, it was a surprise for everybody including myself.

See also: The Ice Man, Wim Hof, on How to Reset Your Immune System

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Photo: Courtesy of Alex Voyer

WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP LIKE WITH WATER ?

I have always loved to be in the water. It started during our family holidays in Corsica and in the South of France in Nice. Since I was little, I’ve been in the aquatic element. I always felt incredibly comfortable being in the water, (there is) an obvious sense of well-being.

When things were not going well outside the water, it was going well in the water. It is an element which has been a part of me ever since I was a little boy, and even more now than I’m a freediver. Today, it is my work place, my daily life, my lifestyle.

The idea to find yourself in a silent world, in weightlessness underwater, there is something magical about that… 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF FREEDIVING ?

It offers a lot of balance and strength, a step back from the world and others. Huge psychic benefits on wellbeing and self confidence.

You learn to go above and beyond, and that’s where the fun comes in!

YOU SPEAK A LOT ABOUT APNEA AND SELF-TRANSCENDENCE, TELL US MORE

This disciple demands to go beyond a primary reflex: the desire to breathe, which is different than the need to breathe. It calls for a survival automatism anchored deep within us. Learning to surpass it is mentally demanding.

When you practice regularly, two or three times a week, there is a shift in the balance, a new confidence that creates an opening of consciousness. This brings an enormous amount of balance to everyday life.

For example, there are benefits on stress management, the ability to face the challenges of everyday life with more serenity, and taking commitments and risks. It is all the ingredients of self-realization and fulfillment.

Integration of apnea practices into daily life creates a natural doping with huge psychic impact for everyone

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Photo: Courtesy of Joseph Melin

See also: Top 8 Wellness Trends for 2020

WHAT DO YOU FEEL IN YOUR BODY DURING A DIVE ?

You feel all the mechanisms of the adaptation of the human body to the environment, called the diving reflex. The heart slows down, there is a peripheral vasoconstriction, the blood reflux to the noble organs and there is a compression of the thoracic cage. You feel all those things, these are reflex changes, which we can’t control.

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR ROLE NOW ?

My mission today is essentially on transmission. My career as an athlete is behind me, even if in 2021 I have a new world record project. I focus on activities like (being a) speaker, brand ambassador, creation of artistic projects with documentaries, books and photos to familiarize people to the sea and ocean.

During conferences, I share my experiences and ideas as world champion and athlete. Together we explore how the reflections that flow from it (these experiences) can be applied to the corporate world, entrepreneurial world and for daily life. I want to give people some keys on how to break free from the comfort that they enjoy all the time. For them to understand the benefits of taking more risks, to play with life in a different way.

DO YOU HAVE ANY NUTRITIONAL ADVICE AS A FREEDIVING WORLD CHAMPION AND ATHLETE ?

I have a fitness diet which is high in protein and really controlled. It includes whole grain rice, green veggies, proteins, no sugary drink, no added sugar. Poor in sugar, rich in carbohydrates. I eat a lot, approximately six meals per day, ideally every three hours with snacks in between. I balance my diet with a water fast per year, and one day per week I eat whatever I want to allow a carbohydrate rebound for the organism.

I use supplements from the French brand Nutripure for which I am an ambassador. Carbohydrates with sweet potato flour, protein bars, whey protein powder, magnesium, vitamins, omega 3.

WHERE DO YOU DREAM TO FREEDIVE IN THE WORLD?

I would love to see French Polynesia for the cetaceans. Discovering the underwater world over there feels exciting ! To visit the Silfra fissure in Iceland, to dive in the lake Baikal in Russia, which seems so clear. To go to Japan, apparently there are amazing spots.

YOU ARE AN AMBASSADOR FOR LUXURY BRANDS LIKE MERCEDES BENZ, NUTRIPURE, OCEAN CLUB MARBELLA, WHAT ARE YOUR SELF CARE SECRETS ?

I don’t particularly take care of my skin, it is more of a (holistic) way of life which includes precise nutrition and a lot of physical activity. 

I see myself as a sportsman-adventurer-ambassador, not a comedian.

Beauty is something particular. Someone beautiful is someone who believes in what he/she does and inspires people. The gaze, the personality, the experiences that make someone infinitely beautiful, without necessarily (becoming) a perfect plastic person.

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Photo: Courtesy of Alex Voyer

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR THE MEN OUT THERE ?

Try to be yourself, to emancipate yourself from the norms. Be the actor of your own life, go outside your comfort zone as often as possible, explore, go on adventures. This is what will make you attractive to people and inspiring for them.

WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG ?

For a long time, I thought I would be a musician or singer.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH SPIRITUALITY AND THE SACRED ?

I am quite sensitive when it comes to fate and fatality, heroism. I believe in the path that is offered to us, in the choices we make. To surrender to something that transcends you, for me it is a form of spirituality. I think we must surrender to our destiny.

See also: 2020 Wellness Bucket List Destinations

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Photo: Courtesy of Alex Voyer

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE HOLIDAY DESTINATION ?

I really like to go to the Forez region in the Massif Central, where we have an old family home, a magnificent region. It is a place really remote, surrounded by forests. Really silent, in the middle of nature, a little French village. There is not much to do other than making fire, walks, being in the wild nature.

I also love Corsica, where I spent a lot of time as a kid, where I have family.

HOW DO YOU DESTRESS ?

I take my guitar and I sing. I work out or I go to the gym. And of course freediving is an enormous destresser; there is nothing better than a session!

DO YOU HAVE A RITUAL IN THE MORNING?

I don’t ritualize things too much. I don’t really have a ritual like yoga or meditation. My life is quite bohemian. I live in the feeling and with spontaneity, enjoying the opportunities, it is quite rock ‘n’ roll. Of course my trainings are planned and my nutrition is precise.

WHAT’S ON YOUR PLAYLIST?

I always listen to a lot of things. I listen to John Mayer all the time, and at the moment California Dreamin’ by José Feliciano (from the original soundtrack from Quentin Tarantino’s movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), electro like Bonobo, Tisho, Melanie de Biasio, French musicians like Ibrahim Maalouf and always Noir Désir. I could speak a lot about music as well.                                                                                                                     

WHAT COULD BE YOUR WORDS TO INSPIRE PEOPLE ?

I like the quote “Your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them.” It is from the movie Star Wars. It’s also a quote from Saint Exupéry, “It is only in the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”. It is really beautiful. There is another one from Victor Hugo which I like very much, “People do not know each other until they have drunk together. He who empties his glass empties his heart”.

WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF THE WORLD ?

A little more of justice, heroism and more courage. More stable foundations, in fact. Greater commitments and shares. A return to fundamental values and principles. Of course it involves other things, like good education, and a sense of awareness.

When I look at our world, I have the impression it is a big mess at the moment. We are forgetting to live in (our) community in a coherent way. For example with the sense of responsibility, the sense of family and education of children, the sense of the given word and honor.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU ?

We are in the writing process of a documentary series, an embodied documentary: a freediving World Champion traveling around the planet to meet people who live with the ocean, and to highlight the contrasts of their problems in regard to the climate crisis. I will travel to meet them in the four corners of the world, the focus is not to speak about climate change, but just to be a witness of these people’s lives.

I will prepare for my next World Record of Dynamic Apnea for 2021, in a frozen lake in Finland.

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Photo: Courtesy of Alex Voyer

The freediving World Champion Arthur Guérin-Boëri offers conferences and workshops, as well as breathing and relaxation coaching sessions for businesses and individuals.

You can follow Arthur’s projects and his next World Record preparation on Instagram and Facebook.