Arnaud Jérald: “More men have gone into space than 100 meters deep”

Do not expect him to perpetuate the myth of the Poseidon man who flirts with the danger of the joy of suspense or the intoxication of the depths. “Blah-blah to flirt with girls”, decides freediver Arnaud Jérald, 26 years old and already holder of four world records in constant weight bi-finn. Fantastic maturity. The stakeholder admits, “more than meters, records, it’s years I win under water”. What a strange idea to deprive yourself of the air for long minutes – exactly seven – to explore dizzying depths. He wonders to himself in the icy depths of the endless blue what hides this desire to become one with the water. Hope of self-transcendence? Infinity that fascinates? Free diving is above all a dive in itself. A certainty, his race against the meters and the clock is far from over. Meet.

Le Point: How did you discover apnea?

Arnault Jerald: Thanks to my dad. I followed him during spear fishing. He signed me up for a scuba diving course to secure our excursions. It was a revelation. The shy, dyslexic and hypersensitive child that I was saw a whole new world open to him. I found myself. I knew right away that I wanted to make it my job.

Have your recent accomplishments changed your daily life?

On July 17, I broke the world record for discipline for the fourth time on Long Island in the Bahamas, under Vertical Blue, by falling to a depth of 117 meters. Four days after reaching – 116 meters and breaking the previous world record (which was – 115 meters).

These last two plates had a special taste. I was afraid of having a “shooting star” career: a feat and seeing nothing. I waited to stabilize my results, to demonstrate their regularity, to examine Richard Mille.

What role do sponsors play in the viability of your sport?

Today, they are helping to fund my expensive seasons. Tomorrow, they might give me the opportunity to improve my performance by optimizing and making my dives safer.

Which means ?

As soon as possible I would like a boat that gathers the whole team after me (about fifteen people including hyperbaric doctors, physiotherapists, engineers, safety divers) and all the equipment (drones, cables, etc.) so they can accompany me around the world during my competitions. At the moment, when I travel, I have to rely on local teams who know less about my body’s reactions. I’m less calm. You have to push your own bodily limits, but apnea is 80% a matter of the mind.

Looks like you’re approached Richard Mille yourself. Why did he seem like the perfect partner for you?

Since Jacques Mayol, watchmakers have always been the historical partners of freedivers. Probably because the records are recorded thanks to the unclean. For my part, like many Richard Mille enthusiasts, I discovered their watches on an athlete, in this case a rider on the Castelet track. I was seduced by the object, the radical in the design, and I was surprised to hear that they offered functional watches under extreme conditions. I asked to find out if there were diving watches. I was pleased to learn that they were not only them, but that they were waterproof to 300 meters (the ISO 6425 certification, which gives the diver’s watch designation, requires only 100 meters, ed.). I contacted the house, we will be seen, we are happy!

Rafael Nadal, Alexis Pinturault, Charles Leclerc … The list of 42 house partners is enough to make you dizzy. Does this impress you?

It inspires me!

Wasn’t it awkward for you to associate yourself with a luxury brand?

On the contrary, it was my will. Free diving is still a relatively familiar sport. There are more men who have gone out into space than men who have gone 100 meters deep. Contrary to popular belief, it is a sport that is played 80% in the head, which is why we are associated with yoga, meditation and universes with a strong spiritual dimension. In order to evolve and achieve fame, apnea must open up to other circles. Luxury provides a launch pad.

Why do you think the RM 032 is the ideal watch to accompany you?

When it comes to athletic performance, it’s the number of yards that counts, but when it comes to my safety, it’s my watch that matters. Therefore, RM 032 is an indispensable tool for me. As a freediver, it is not there to look beautiful, I wear it because I trust it.

Free diving is a relatively young sport, how can one explain its late rise?

This sport is my age: 26, but practice has always existed, especially in underwater fishing. Free divers have gained fame with The big blue. At that time, many entries were claimed, without actually being approved due to lack of an official structure. These dives were practiced without a frame, it was very dangerous and there were many deaths. Everything changed in 1996, when the first World Cups were set up in Villefranche Bay in Nice. Four disciplines have been created: bi-fine, monofin, breaststroke and free immersion. Hundreds of athletes sign up, apnea officially becomes a sport. But the road is still long.

Do you have Olympic dreams?

We have been under observation for three years. Integrating the Olympics would be a huge step forward for the discipline, which would therefore win in visibility. But that is not an end in itself. It is important to keep our scuba diving soul. Some sports, such as climbing, have recently been present at the Olympics. However, I do not find the format chosen convincing.

If time is a luxury for ordinary mortals, it is vital data for you underwater, you have no room for error. What relationship are you in danger of?

There is a fantasy around the risks we take underwater. But in 26 years, we have only known one death in competition. And yet, performance is changing. Ten years ago, it was a record to cross the threshold of 80 meters in double fins. Today you need to – 118 meters. 99% of accidents occur during recreational dives when the person dives alone.

Specifically, how do you protect yourself from danger?

Thanks to protocols that are in place with my team of doctors and engineers. And also thanks to the drones and agents who scrutinize me during my dives. Diveye technology allows me to be observed from the surface in real time thanks to an underwater drone that follows me to the bottom. I only went to -117 meters because fifteen people prepared me to go down to this depth without risk. I also choose to announce depths that I master, if I announce a record depth in competition, it is because I have done it several times in training. Tranquility is at the heart of the matter. More than meters, it’s years of maturity that I achieve during my descents.

Are you looking for the intoxication of the deep?

I run away from her. Do not expect me to perpetuate the myth of the Poseidon man who flirts with death and excitement. It’s blah-blah to flirt with girls!

However, deep drinking is a proven physiological phenomenon …

Anesthesia is a natural phenomenon due to excess nitrogen due to pressure. I have experienced this condition several times. A few years ago, in Greece during a dive, I saw myself snorkeling in front of me. That’s how I contacted Comex hyperbaric doctors to understand this phenomenon and do everything possible to prevent it from happening again.

We realized that anesthesia usually occurs between – 80 and more than 100 meters depth. So I had to work to limit my time at these depths. I went through my diving rhythm, I optimized my usual times by a minute and never had problems again. I have 100% control over my apneas. This serenity is priceless.

How long can you hold your breath?

Seven minutes.

Can’t find the time long?

In case of static apnea, in a swimming pool, yes. It’s terribly long. After three minutes I start to get bored and my body feels it, I have spasms, I am struggling with respiratory stress. I never repeated the experience because I found it so uncomfortable. Oddly enough, none of this happens during my descents at sea. My discipline is not measured in time spent underwater without breathing, but in meters back. It is very different.

What part of the innate and acquired is there in your holdings?

I follow closely. My results got much better from the moment I was accompanied by professionals, but it is true that I have an ability to assimilate lactic acid, allowing me to palm the whole descent and go up again. Going fast allows me to reach record depths, without feeling respiratory stress and without risking anesthesia. It’s a good circle.

Has your race reached its limits over time?

The top form for freedivers is between 35 and 40 years old, I have high hopes of breaking a few more records! Especially since Alexey Molchanov, my main competitor, is currently a minute further on covering the same distances. So it gives me a lot of room for improvement.

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