• NRuskell

Learn to freedive at Bluenery Academy in Villefranche

Updated: Sep 8, 2021

Try something totally new and totally cool! Bluenery Academy freediving school is open to everybody, especially those who are scared.

Freediving lesson at Bluenery Academy. Photo: Bastien Soleil

You've probably seen the film "The Big Blue" and maybe have even fantasised about being able to be one with the sea, no equipment, nor oxygen... or, maybe you find the thought absolutely terrifying. Either way, two local freedivers want to share their passion for freediving and prove to the average person that it's only our mind holding us back, not our physical ability.

Bluenery started as a freediving concept boutique in Villefranche in 2020 and has now expanded into an international freediving academy. World champion freediver and filmmaker, Guillaume Néry and his friend and business partner, Bastien Soleil, an expert freediver and underwater photographer have created a new type of diving school. For them, freediving isn’t about how deep you can go, or how fast – it’s about your connection to your breath and to the water. “Anyone can free dive,” explains Bastien, “no matter their age, their shape, if they smoke—any body can do it.” He says it’s more about the mind than anything else and their goal, as instructors, is to help reprogramme the body to be in water -- re-programme because we were created in water.

Their philosophy is to be your guide on a journey of discovery – not just of the water, but of the mind, the body and sea. It’s about getting back in touch with who you are and how comfortable the body naturally is in water. “It’s our natural state in the womb, when we were the most comfortable,” he says. “Life gets hard once the waters break!

Bluenery Academy is open to everyone, especially people who are attracted to the sea but who are also a bit nervous or scared of the water. They really encourage those who have trepidations of deep water or who suffer from anxiety. Freediving requires 100% presence, focusing only on breath and relaxation. Bastien describes the underwater world as a sanctuary from the efforts, hardships and gravity of life on earth. “There is no judgement in the sea; life gets left on shore. It’s like we create a little revolution bringing people back to who they are,” he describes. It also connects people to the world of marine life and builds an appreciation for protecting the sea. “Freediving is a life-changing experience; You won’t believe how many people become nuts about it after their first try.

Guiding the student down the rope Photo: Bastien Soleil

All students start with a 1-day connection course. This teaches the basics of breathing, but is mostly about connection and comfort in the water. “Our goal isn’t depth or time, it’s about trust.” If the student enjoys it, they can go further. A 7-day course covers seven steps and will get students freediving to depths of 30 – 40 metres on one breath. A surprising depth for such a short time, but Bastien explains: “It’s not physical – we can’t change the body in a week – it’s all about our mind.

Giving it a go

Riviera Insider tested a freediving course and it was an absolutely amazing experience. If you are new to diving, it can be easier, as freediving is very different from scuba diving training. However, it can also be challenging, overwhelming, exhilarating, and totally liberating! We started with almost an hour of breath training with Guillaume Néry. After a series of breathing exercises, he got us holding our breath for over two minutes, something no one thought they could do. It started like a yoga class, which the instructors say is very similar to the principles of freediving. Guillaume then wound up the lesson like an aerobics instructor, keeping us on track with our breath and pushing us to keep going... “Ten more seconds, you can do it!”

By doing this breathing session, when you get to the water, he reminds you how long you already held your breath without problem, so that fear is immediately taken out of the equation. The rest is up to your courage, your ability to relax, to stay present, and to focus. He stays with you at each dive down the cord, being there as support and building trust, until you make it to the bottom plate - a satisfaction that is priceless!

The super team of Bluenery Academy. Photo: Bastien Soleil

The Academy

They currently have five instructors, all top professional freedivers who speak French, English, Spanish and Italian. All levels are welcome from beginner to advanced professional training. Students are taken out in groups of three per instructor off the coast of Villefranche-sur-Mer.

For more information or to book a freediving session, visit their website and tell them Riviera Insider sent you!

-Nicole Ruskell

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