The French champion’s life revolves entirely around the sea. And has done since he started diving as a very young boy. But it was always going to be thus. His father, also a freediving champion, passed on his passion at an early age. But Hamilton Ambassador Frolla’s vision goes well beyond record-setting. His philosophy and lifestyle also embrace teaching and spreading the word about protecting our oceans. As he told us in this Sea Time interview.
When did you first start freediving?
I grew up near the sea in Monaco. So it was easy for me to find time for a dive every day. My dad was a freediving and underwater fishing champion in the 1960s, and he taught me and my brother to love to sea and the importance of protecting marine life. But at the same time he was a bit scared and tried to stop us getting in the water every day because we were very young and adored the sea, fish and deep water. He never wanted to push me to become a better freediver. I couldn’t understand why when I was a kid…I thought he was hiding treasure or a secret in the depths of the sea. So my brother and I went swimming instead of going school every chance we got (laughs). We were dying to find out what the secret was. So gradually, day by day, year by year, the ocean and the Mediterranean became my playground, my universe, my life.
And that’s how you came to understand its essence?
In my latest project, a book called “Ocean Face to Face” I say that. The book is a collection of astonishing photos and is an homage to marine animals and life. Most of them are under threat from human activities. We saw them up close. But at the same time they are sublime: sharks, cetaceans, rays, turtles, moray eels, crocodiles. Some are closer to humans than we imagine and have very close relationships with us. If only we knew how to decode them. Greg Lecœur’s underwater photos turns the book into an investigation of man’s relationship with the sea, the natural environment and animals in the wild. How much space are we willing to leave to nature while we master the oceans like we did the continents? That’s why I decided to use my knowledge to raise awareness amongst young people about the importance of protecting ocean flora and fauna.
Which is your favourite of the many records you have set?
The last one! (laughs). To be honest, a record is just a record. Setting world records is one of the least important things I have done in my life. Managing my schools, creating projects, helping children that are struggling, having a family, being a good father – they’re the things that really count in life as far as I am concerned.
What made you give up competitions and devote yourself to teaching freediving?
I don’t have an exact answer to that. It’s about lifestyle. You spend your life diving, you become part of the marine environment. It’s not just a sport or a way of “visiting” the sea. It’s important to be careful, to listen to everything we are feeling around us and inside of us. Freediving is sharing, listening, understanding. You have to be in perfect harmony with the elements. To be a freediver, you have to become the water. And never forget that it is an outdoor sport with strict rules that have to be respected and don’t just apply in the water: never stop learning, or getting to know yourself, be part of a team and have good strong “waterman values”: honour, courage, humility, sharing, brotherhood and commitment.
What values do you share with Hamilton and is there any Hamilton model that you are particularly fond of?
Commitment, courage, honour, humility, brotherhood, sharing. We’ve been together a long time and it’s like being part of a family. The new Khaki Navy Frogman Automatic is a surprise! I can assure you I have tested it in extreme conditions and it survived. The stainless steel case is combined with new wave-look rubber strap that reminds me of the power of whirlpools at sea. The crown protector underscores its sporty soul too. It has a classic black dial with Super-LumiNova indices and hands so you can read it perfectly easily in the dark. I insisted on that as it is vitally important on dives and the performance is extraordinary.