Guillaume Néry grew up in Nice, France, by the Mediterranean Sea, and discovered freediving when he was 14 years old. At 15, he joined a freediving club, where he began to specialize in the constant weight discipline (wearing fins and without the use of a sled). At 19 years old, he joined the French national team and set a French constant weight national record of 82 meters (which also matched the world record at the time). The following year, he reached 87 meters in constant weight, becoming the youngest world record holder in the history of freediving. In 2004, Guillaume travelled to Reunion Island, where he set another world record of 96 meters. In 2005, while training for the first freediving world championships organized in Nice, Guillaume reached 100 meters during a training session. The same year, he reached 105 meters, which was Jacques Mayol’s last world record, set in 1983 in the No Limits discipline (going down with a sled, and coming up with a balloon filled with air). In 2006, he reached 109 meters. In July 2008, he broke the constant weight world record for the fourth time (113 meters). Two months later, with the French freediving team (with Morgan Bourc’his and Christian Maldamé) he became Team World Champion in Egypt. It was the first gold medal for the French Team in a freediving world championship. In 2011, Guillaume won the constant weight AIDA freediving World Champion title, in Kalamata, Greece, with a dive to 117 meters.
The sea has always been my horizon even when I was spending more time going up in the mountains with my parents than being in the sea. Like many other kids, I enjoyed the Med in summer. I loved to dive down a few meters with my mask and my pair of fin, and grab some sand from the bottom. It made me feel like an adventurer. I love everything about being underwater. I like to explore the underwater world on breath-hold, because I am silent and free. Sometimes, even in winter, even if I am in a hurry, even if it’s a cold and cloudy day, I feel the need to go and spend a few minutes underwater, not very deep. I feel like it’s a pure moment of real connection with the element, with myself. I disconnect my thoughts, I disconnect from the stress of the crazy life on land, and I just live in the moment, here and now. After that, the day is always a good day. But I enjoy so many different ways to be underwater. When I am going very deep — to 120 meters or more — I feel like my body and my mind are completely adapted to the extreme conditions of the deep, as a result of years of training. This feeling of harmony with the water and yourself in the darkness of the sea is always a great reward. The moment I like the most during a deep dive is the freefall part, from 40 meters to the bottom. I don’t need to swim; I feel the attraction of the deep, I relax, I let go. I feel the temperature changing, the light disappearing, and the huge pressure squeezing my body. It feels like traveling to another planet. I also love freediving to approach marine mammals like whales, sperm whales, and leopard seals. I feel that the interaction is stronger because we are belonging to the same family. Today, after more than 23 years of freediving, with my records, my films, my books, my talks, my courses, I am lucky to make a living out of my passion. As I am getting older, I feel that I have a mission to share with the world everything that I have been taught by the ocean. I became what I am today thanks to the magic of freediving, which taught me so many great lessons. I feel grateful for that and I am to see more and more people fascinated by freediving. I had the chance to dive in all the oceans and seas in the world, from tropical islands in the Pacific to the frozen seas of Antarctica, all under threat today. I feel a responsibility to speak loudly for the ones who don’t have a voice. The ocean is dying because of us. We have to act today.
The first real contact with breath-hold was at the age of 14, and it was not even in the water. I was with a friend in the bus between school and home, and we were playing a game: Who can hold his breath the longest. I lost. So I started to challenge myself at home, in my bed. I discovered after few weeks I was able to hold my breath more than 4 minutes. The feeling of exploring the limits of my body was very exciting. Then I decided to try it underwater, to discover the unknown territory of the deep water. I just fell in love with this amazing feeling to explore the unknown. A few months later I discovered that I could train properly with the only freediving club at that time, which by chance was located in Nice. It was October 1997. I was 15, and the real adventure with freediving was just starting.
There are so many things I love to do apart from freediving. First, I love other water sports like swimming or stand-up paddleboarding. I love spending time in the mountains and hiking, running or taking long walks. I need altitude as much as I need depth. Of course, I love to spend time time with my daughter and share with her this passion for nature. I do a lot of photography, both underwater and on land. I always have with me an old film camera with some rolls. And last but not least, one of my great passions is to read. I love to have some time every day to read books. Life would be sad without literature.
There are so many pieces I love from Cressi, but the Nano Free Blue mask is my favorite. I ALWAYS have one with me, wherever I go. A swimsuit, a snorkel and my blue Nano mask — these are what I need to survive in any situation.
Before being named a Cressi Ambassador, I was buying Cressi gear. I remember my first pair of fins was the Gara 2000. I remember having always dived with a Superocchio mask when I was younger. So to me, Cressi equiment has always been super top quality. On top of that, Cressi has supported the two legends of freediving history: Jacques Mayol and Umberto Pelizzari. So when I was asked to become a Cressi Ambassador, it was a huge honor. I hope we will continue this adventure together for a while!