What is the story behind Pierre Frolla the freediver? Do you think a person can only fly in the sky? You will surely be surprised to know that the Monegasque freediver Pierre Frolla learned to soar through the boundless space of the sea. Pierre has long conquered the sea, being a world champion and an international record setter in freediving. He owes his passion for the sea to his father, who used to be on theMonegasque freediving team. He was the one to pass on his values to the future champion that Pierre is now, sharing with his own pupils at the Monegasque freediving school.
Not so long ago Pierre began a true revolution in the freediving industry by introducing his OceanWings – a wingsuit and a wetsuit at the same time. We may now confidently say that Pierre is the first person to fly through the sea. We met with the Monegasque freediver at his school on the Larvotto beach to learn more about OceanWings.
HM: How did you manage to do this?
PF: We put in small inflatable carbon dioxide pockets allowing you to inflate the vest and climb to the surface. A French surfer, Peyo Lizarazu, designed a vest for big wave surfing and suggested that I try it on. I then realised that I can use it for my future suit.
HM: What is the idea of the suit?
PF: Nowadays divers are eager to interact with the underwater world. They are willing for the sea animals to accept them. The idea is to approach large marine mammals – whales, sharks and sperm whales without disturbing or frightening them. Animals are very curious creatures, especially when they feel safe. I believe that I can get them interested in me. Of course, they do sense a strong smell of neoprene and realise that I’m not an animal. However, I can stay motionless and in the same position wearing my suit and using the current for moving in the water. I can thus kindle their curiosity, watch them and interact.
HM: Have you been able to interact with sea mammals before?
PF: Yes, but with the help of a tube and scuba. I also had to constantly be on the move. I believe this limits our communication with animals. They seem to feel that you are trying to invade their world, and swim away.
HM: What projects do you use the costume for?
PF: For me, OceanWings is a chance to draw public attention to environmental issues and animal welfare. This can be done in several ways: organising a conference and focussing on the importance of animal protection, or taking beautiful photos and recordings to get the public interested. On the one hand, it has educational purposes, and on the other, it can become a useful scientific practice. OceanWings will help us to do what no one else has done before. You can thus approach a family of whales without disturbing them and set up special cameras on the suit to take rare photographs.
Soon I’m leaving on an expedition where I’ll be using my suit. I will first go to Oman and swim with whale sharks, and then to Dominica to swim with sperm whales.
HM: Why don’t you want to put it on sale?
PF: I promised my partners that there would be no commercialising it. This is a niche product, like the Iron Man suit, created specifically for its owner. OceanWings has three copies, all of them made to measure for me. In addition, its use implies a serious and regular training.
HM: It’s a revolutionary project, but could it be improved even more?
PF: I think the inflation system can be improved. Right now, there are a few small problems in this regard, but we are working on it. I would also like to change its colour, make its design more stylish and the material, less dense. But I can already say that presently OceanWings is reliable to 95% and comfortable to 92%.
HM: Tell us about the school that you created in Monaco
PF: I opened the school to draw the attention of children aged 8+to environmental problems. For this purpose, we teach scuba diving, freediving, water safety and life-saving. This is our way of passing on to children the values of honesty, team work and courage. I believe that the best way for them to assimilate these values is to be immersed in the magical sea world and see the importance of protecting wildlife. In the winter, about 2,000 children attend our school, and in summer, about 40-50 per week.
HM: Are you cooperating with the charity organisations run by the Princely family?
PF: I am the ambassador of Princess Charlene Foundation. Within the framework of this programme I teach children water safety and life-saving. In addition, during the World Sports Day, we organise the Princess Charlene Rally. As for the Prince Albert II Foundation, I work in the field of environmental protection, and in particular, the sea. In Monaco, we also help children from dysfunctional families to practise diving as this is quite expensive.
Thus, we can see from this interview that Pierre Frolla is not only a freediver, but also a dedicated hero of the marine environment.
Sourse: Alexis Rosenfeld