By day he is the general manager of Le Sporting Club Sanctuaire in Outremont. But François Leduc’s real passion is free-diving, a sport in which a diver descends in the water using a single lungful of air.
At last week’s Canadian premiere of The Great White Shark 3D at the IMAX TELUS Theatre at the Montreal Science Centre, Leduc was front in centre before a room of school children, along with his close friend and diving partner William Winrem, explaining what it is like to swim with sharks off the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.
Winrem, who was born and raised in the Canadian Pacific Northwest, is a former world champion in free-diving. In 2007 he set a world by diving the Arch in the Blue Hole of Dahab, Egypt, a 30-meter long, 60-metre deep natural geological passage connecting the Blue Hole with the Red Sea. An instructor/trainer for several diving systems, he teaches breath-hold diving classes around the world and coaches several international athletes. Considered an expert in shark behaviour, Winrem has used breath-hold diving skills for environmental work — tagging, photographing, filming and taking tissue samples of various species of sharks.
“William was my free-diving instructor when I got my certification 10 years ago,” Leduc said in an interview. “He actually invited me on his first trip to Guadeloupe to free-dive with Great White sharks. After that trip, which I only thought would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he called me back and asked whether I’d like to come back on an all expenses paid trip to film an IMAX 3D movie.”
Great White Shark 3D reveals the important role that this majestic predator has played in our marine ecosystems since the dawn of the dinosaurs. For the vast majority of people, the Great White shark is a symbol of terror and savage ferocity, a nightmarish killing machine, hungry for prey. As Leduc explained, the Great White shark is itself on the verge of extinction, the victim of a merciless predator: humans.
“Movies like Jaws give sharks a bad image,” Winrem explained. “On the Discovery Channel they do not show you the part where buckets of blood are dropped in the water to taunt the shark.”
“Sharks are portrayed as monsters,” added Leduc. “I think this film shows a different side.”
The 40-minute movie takes viewers to the oceans off South Africa, New Zealand, Mexico and California to reveal the beauty and strength of these animals through the eyes of people who have been transformed by shark encounters. Leduc’s main role was to oversee dive safety.
“When we are in the water there are usually three divers at a time so we can cover all of the angles,” he says. “The Great White is always looking for a blind spot I was there to cover the backs of William and the other diver and make sure there were no surprises.”
Creating no bubbles, the free-divers move in perfect harmony with the flow of the water; and the Great Whites — which can grow to over six meters in length — swim right up to them.
For Leduc, this was indeed the closest he has ever come to sharks. “They are very curious animals,” he said. “The key is maintaining eye contact with them and stand your ground.”
For more information log on to: http://www.greatwhiteshark3d.com.