It may be that the « great blue » phenomenon was born in the cinema, but it was taken a step further at the Faculty of Sports Sciences of the University of Nice.
Freediving is both an outdoor sport and a scientific adventure, a true exploration. It is thus that it attracts the athlete searching for exploit and kindles the curiosity of the scientist – to whom it offers the possibility to study the human functioning in extreme conditions. In freediving, even if the dive leads toward the deep of the sea, the unknown territories are principally located in the deep of the human soul. They are both physiological and psychological, and are related to what we could consider the marine dimension of the human mammal. It is astonishing to see to what extent, deep down (both figuratively and literally), human biology resembles that of the dolphin.
But the university « great blue » is above all an art de vivre founded on a solid and volunteer ethic. Free divers instill a relation to nature that is pioneer and futuristic, that outlines a clear and virtuous line of conduct for future generations of participants. Freediving shows itself thus as a true school of nature.
Here, the sea is not just a playground. The athlete, in silence and harmony, is integrated into the elements, seeks fusion. And it is most likely in this successful encounter that lies the pleasure of the sport.
However, this approach does not come naturally. It entails real investment and numerous efforts: the development of self control, the mastering of techniques and, especially, substantial training.
Free divers are, in addition, authentic sea activists. They are extremely knowledgeable of the sea and participate actively in its preservation.
Freediving is also a collective, shared and convivial process, a true human adventure which requires great solidarity and weaves authentic social ties. And, lastly, freediving is a school of rigor: the mastery of security measures is a necessary element of the practice.
This laudable ethic of outdoor sports resembles those embedded in many of the missions of the Faculty of Sports Sciences in Nice, long known for its strong accent on sea and the mountain sports. This orientation is of course first due to the exceptional geographical configuration of the Alpes Maritimes. Yet it is also due to the fact this Faculty is endowed with a recognized and particularly dynamic and competent team of teachers in this sector. This team's actions are regularly supported by the public governing bodies, in the framework of enriching partnerships that are oriented toward developing outdoor sports activities and sustainable tourism.
One of the principal missions of the Faculty of Sports Sciences is to promote physical activity. Its activities are guided by the will to assist existing sports practices to evolve and new practices to develop, in response to social and cultural needs.
In the domain of outdoor physical activities, the Faculty trains versatile professionals, capable of supervising and organizing the practices, managing sports-related organizations and conceiving innovative activities that are adapted to the needs of diverse populations and compatible with sustainable development.
In the domain of research, the Laboratory of Human Motricity, Education, Health, Sport (LAMHESS) studies factors of accessibility to sports practices, as well as the conditions of lasting personal commitment to physical activity. The results of this research enhance comprehension of how physical activity in these natural zones can be made accessible to a maximum of people, within the framework of sustainable environmental development.
Today, access to regular physical activity in a natural environment appears as a very strong societal need, a true condition of health promotion for urban populations. Social relations to nature are evolving, and their values fuse with the freediving ethic: the search for more direct contact with the elements, absolute respect for the environment, the desire to discover and to explore in order to better understand and protect, a moment of reflection on oneself but also of sharing with others.
Before concluding, I would like to acknowledge with best wishes my friend and colleague Claude Chapuis, founding father of modern freediving, legend in our Faculty, and tireless organizer of marvelous events into which, with incomparable talent, he is always able to lead us all. I am convinced that the Freediving World Team Championship of 2012 will be a great and wonderful sports adventure, which I sincerely hope for him and also for all of the organizers and athletes.
I would like to end with a word of sincere friendship to our freediving champions and former students of the Faculty: Pierre Frolla, our Monagasque brother, Loic Leferme, who is always with us, and Guillaume Nery, our pride.
Doyen de la faculté des sciences du sport