Pierre Frolla: A Freediving Champion on a Mission to Save the Oceans
Today’s interview takes us back to September during the kick off to the annual whale shark migration off the coast of Oman, which runs to February. We caught up with Pierre Frolla in Muscat after a day of swimming with whale sharks to listen to his life as a freediving competitor and his current projects.
Despite spending a long day in the ocean, 42-year-old Monégasque Pierre was enthusiastic as he described his upcoming projects to fulfill his desire to educate the youth about environmental awareness.
He was invited to Oman by SeaOman to lead bespoke freediving and snorkeling tours where people could get a chance to meet whale sharks – “the giants of the sea.” SeaOman’s Head of Commercial Operations, Tony Hurst was on site and also spoke to us about the importance of marine conservation in the region.
If you missed the chance to dive with whale sharks in September, worry not because SeaOman will host another trip in 2018. Watch this space for more information!
Pierre Frolla posing with a whale shark behind in Oman | Photo Credit: @atmozcubephotography
ub-cool: 13 years ago, you achieved the world record of 123m. But, I understand you have dived to even deeper depths – is that correct?
Pierre Frolla: Yes, I did my world record of 123 meters in variable-weight back on 4th of July, 2004. But, just before, during training, unofficially I reached 149 m. Since it was during a training session, it doesn’t count.
ub-cool: Early on in your career, what were your goals and how did you achieve them?
Pierre Frolla: The thing that’s important in life is to have goals and to have the correct tools to reach these goals. When I was a kid, my goal was to be the world champion in freediving. So, I trained for that every day, for 5-6 hours a day, 5-7 days a week. I did this for 10-12 years. It was my job. It was the goal I wanted to reach.
I made 4 French records and 4 world records. That was my job. In everything else, I have exactly the same mode of thinking. I have a goal and I need to have all the correct tools to reach my goal. And until I reach my goal, I continue and continue and continue and continue.
Pierre Frolla freediving in Oman | Photo Credit: @atmozcubephotography
ub-cool: What is your goal now?
Pierre Frolla: My goal now is to build many schools for children and involve them in the protection of marine sea life and the environment.
“The heritage we are leaving to our children is so sad… so awful – I am so ashamed to be human. During our century, we have totally destroyed the climate, environment, marine sea life, all the mammals. Many animals are disappearing every day.”
So, it’s important to show children what is so nice about the world, why life is so important, and then to give them the tools. With these tools, they will certainly use it to build something.
“My goal is to take them by the hand, run around the world with them, and organize some interactions such as meetings and encounters with animals.”
ub-cool: In your mission to educate the younger generation about environmental awareness, what is the biggest issue you face right now?
Pierre Frolla: The biggest issue for me is to finish my animated cartoon called “Pirates of the Abyss.” We began the project 2 years ago and it is 52 episodes with a length of 13 minutes each.
“We have to find a lot of money to finish the project – around 4.5 – 5 million Euro. And I am looking for money. Please help us! Help us!
It’s really important to finish this cartoon. For me, a cartoon is a real power because it will stay in the minds of children around the world for centuries and centuries.”
Click the image to watch the 2-min pilot of “Pirates of the Abyss”
ub-cool: As your first time here in Oman, what are your thoughts in terms of the quality of the marine life and pollution? What did you observe as you swam with the whale sharks?
Pierre Frolla: Yes. It’s my first time and I’m sure it will not be the last because it’s such a nice country. It’s a really clean area. You can’t imagine, sometimes I arrive in countries and it’s full of plastic everywhere. Here, I didn’t see plastic in the water. I didn’t see rubbish everywhere. So, it’s surprising and I’m so happy for that.
“Also, I can feel the power of the marine sea life. I didn’t do many dives but still, I saw more than 150 whale sharks and many fish everywhere. So, if Oman continues to protect the environment, they could have a real paradise here. Oman should consider becoming a Marine Protected Area with rangers protecting the marine area.”
ub-cool: In your opinion, what is a good example of a Marine Protected Area?
Pierre Frolla: Bahamas. For 30 years now, everything is a marine protected area. They have fish everywhere, and they have sharks. It’s totally forbidden to spearfish. Totally forbidden to use a net. You can use hooks to fish, but that’s it. It’s full of fish.
ub-cool: Other than the cartoon you’re producing, how would you encourage teens and adults to get more involved in environmental awareness?
Pierre Frolla: I think the best is to invite them to do something. If they have the feeling, they will understand it by themselves.
“Jump in the boat with me and together we will see if we can find a whale shark or if we can count clownfish, and if we can be burnt by the sun, save a turtle, and enjoy life without music and without a smartphone.”
Swimming with whale sharks in Oman | Video Credit: @atmozcubephotography
Turning to Tony Hurst, sitting next to Pierre, we ask about SeaOman’s goals for the region.
ub-cool: What is the mission of SeaOman / Oman Sail by organizing this event. I know this is the first time you’re organizing it here in Oman.
Tony Hurst: Yes. It’s the first time we’ve tried this event. The reason we put the event together was, one, to give people an opportunity to experience and encounter the whale sharks which obviously are here for the migration.
The second is to promote Oman as a marine tourism destination. And, by promoting it, educating people about the importance of marine conservation. You know we have such a stunning coastline here. We have Fahal Island and the Dimaniyat Islands, and they are both world-class diving destinations.
The Dimaniyat Islands | Image Source: SeaOman
And, the third thing was that we are a marine tourism business and we want to perform; but, we’re also very conscious of the marine ecology that’s around us. So, it was a project to bring Pierre in and use his experience to understand the sea and share that through an adventure with the whale shark.
From the Vault:
- Interested to learn more about the stunning Dimaniyat Islands? Read this article for more info!
- ub-cool’s own in-house adventurer, Heather Duncan, had the chance to meet the whale sharks! Read more about her exciting experience!
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Feature Image: Pierre Frolla’s instagram