I was running a bit late and was worried that the class was already heading to boat to begin their first dive of the day. Gosh of all days to be late! I can’t help it. The night before I was just so filled with excitement to finally meet Guillaume Nery, world-famous CNF (constant weight no fins) freediver! The order from my work came at the last minute that I shall be covering for the Dive Philippines social media, the Guillaume Nery Freediving Workshop for Mactan!
Okay so admittedly this is not going to be about how I was a student of the workshop but I’d say I was able to get at least a good portion of what the students might have experienced during the workshop so please do read on.
Before the workshop even started I already had a schedule of the activities and they were pretty much the same throughout the rest of the three-day workshop. We got yoga in the morning with Julie Gartier, then some lecture first, dives, then analysis of dives, dive again then final lecture before the day ends. Pretty simple right?
To be honest I also pretty much expected it to be just like any other deep dive workshop because freediving is pretty standard right? Well thankfully I was to be proven wrong during the whole duration of the workshop.
Through the Words of a Champion
Guillaume Nery has broken some records on his own in the past and what makes him a very interesting freediver is not merely because he’s a record-holder himself, rather it is because he has had his share of failure which the freediving community knows about. He does not blame anyone about that experience rather he takes it as a learning opportunity and moves forward.
During his first day of lecture it was beautiful how he talked about freediving as a sport where you need to learn in increments. Though there would be those wanting to make some massive steps forward in the workshop but Guillaume insisted on the process of learning to be enjoyable and also on a comfortable pace.
When Nery talked about Equalisation problems he did not see it as a problem but rather an opportunity for the student to take the equalisation training in small steps instead of hurried developments. Taking shortcuts without going through the fundamentals would, as Nery mentioned, cause future problems. He mentioned particularly about those jumping into learning mouthfill without even trying to learn the basics first. Jumping into advanced equalisation techniques without building the basics may lead to problems like swallowing during the dive.
To put it simply, there are no shortcuts in freediving.
Among other things that Nery emphasised is the importance of enjoying the dive. Though one may suffer and train really hard while on dry land but when in the water it is very important to draw pure pleasure from the whole diving experience or else the purpose of freediving is lost.
I noticed that he did not talk much about how to extremely push one’s self to the limits. Instead he focuses on the aspect of enjoyment and purpose. He speaks of freediving like it is core of one’s lifestyle and principles.
“There is something special about holding your breath.”, Guillaume Nery says as he talks about freediving and why we do it.
Freediving with the Champion
More than just meeting Nery and hearing him talk about his freediving experiences, I was eager to see him in action underwater! What’s he like during his dives? What does he do that other freedivers don’t do? What makes him so special underwater?
The weather wasn’t too bad with generally calm and clear waters despite the cloudy skies. Everyone else goes ahead into the water and the freediving maestro himself makes the last entry into the water. Just so you know he doesn’t seem to have any peculiar or signature rituals before jumping in the water much like what Michael Phelps would do. He just puts on his mask, then gets in the water.
What was very interesting though, if other students may not have noticed it but Guillaume did not wear any weights on him. However in very shallow waters he seemed perfectly in sync with the water that he had no struggles with his buoyancy!
He also executed a very clean CNF which is what Nery is known for. He explained that freediving is much like skydiving and that mere movements from your body or change in positions will cause a direct impact on your freefall.
During the dives you will notice Nery shooting his students one by one using his camera. He will use the footages to discuss and analyse on one-on-one with the students after the dive. A complete mentorship!
And for those wondering, he did all his dives using BTV/VTO (hands-free equalisation).
No Fins Training is Important
As famous as he is for the no-fins discipline, Nery insists that everyone should give CNF some focus and attention. He explained it in the sense that fins have now given a sense of confidence to the freediver so if an ascent or descent happens to be slow, one only needs to kick more to increase velocity. However with no fins an inefficient stroke or position will cause one’s dive to be ineffective in general. This lack of dependence of fins will draw more attention to detail and therefore help one perfect the little things that make up a good dive.
Life Lessons taken from the Workshop
Apart from the technical things in freediving that I learned from Guillaume I had this renewed sense of purpose for freediving. I’ve always been focused on just enjoying freediving but seeing how Nery has now made this sport as a channel for advocacy such as marine conservation I couldn’t help but ask myself what have I done for the ocean? It wasn’t enough that I was enjoying the water, I needed to give back.
He also taught us important lessons on beginnings. Nery showed to us that he too was once just starting with freediving and was just as good as any of us. He wasn’t an overnight instant sensation in freediving. To progress and achieve goals in freediving one needs to have the patience and passion to persist and grow with the sport.
On the aspect of fear, he talked about it as something not to hide, rather something to embrace and accept. Being true to one’s self is acknowledging and understanding one’s fears in the water instead of hiding it.
Though not verbalised but I learned through Nery’s example that greatness must come with humility. In freediving there is a lot of ego as with any sport but to be truly great, humility allows one to embrace their limitations, seek guidane from others and always explore possibilities in the sport. In fact from Day 1 Nery made a disclaimer that his methodologies may not necessarily be the only method of how to conquer depths.
To cap it all off he left one very impacting line that hit too close to home: “You can never be in total control.”
So if you’re wondering if you should spend for the huge price tag that comes with these workshops with freediving champions like Nery, I can’t say for the others but with Nery it was a surreal, personal, and enriching experience; one that I will carry with me for the rest of my freediving life.