Florent M. Locatelli joined Mares & SSI in 2014; he is the “daddy” of the new MARES│XR line and now International Training Director for XR with SSI. We're happy to announce he's also on board with our blog and will be sharing more of his experiences and product developments with us here so look out for his posts!
We recently caught up with him to find out more about the world that lies “farther, deeper, beyond”, what attracted him to technical diving and why he loves it!
Hello Florent! Can you tell us a bit about how you got in to diving?
I was lucky enough to be born, 49 years ago, in a country surrounded by sea, France, with a lot of lakes, rivers and caves. I can’t remember when and where I started to dive, maybe it was before birth, but I can’t remember one day of my vacations in which I didn’t spend hours in the sea looking at the wonders hidden below the surface. I remember that I loved every second of it and wanted more.
What came next?
In the 80’s, when I reached 16 years old, I officially started a dive class with the French Federation and CMAS. We had a 2-hour training session one evening per week in the pool: 1 week swimming, 1 week snorkeling, 1 week theory, 1 week swimming with tanks… and eventually 1 week we used the scuba diving equipment under the pool’s surface…
The very last month of the year, we were finally allowed to go in the sea, for more swimming, with or without tanks, but always on the surface…
It was difficult but I learned to dive. I was driven by passion, young and strong enough to handle the commando style training. One dive level per year, it took me a while but I finally became an Instructor.
I worked as an Instructor during the summer seasons in France and Spain. Diving was not well known at that time and so I was also a lifeguard on duty on the beach… the good old days!
At the same time I was also studying. I graduated in International Business and Trade from a French Business School (ESC) in 1992 and in 1993 a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) at the University of South Alabama. There, in the US, I discovered PADI. I crossed over easily and discovered a new, different way of diving. I liked it and brought it back to
France with me later. I also discovered so-called “technical” diving. I realized that another dimension of diving was out there and immediately got totally hooked. Tec diving became my quest, my nirvana, my utmost passion.
I then had to serve for 2 years in the French Army. I was an Officer (Lieutenant) based in the Caribbean islands and guess what? I was also in charge of the Military Dive Club there during my free time!
Back in France, I decided that my life would be about diving and only diving. I would dive into diving and my passion would also become my work!
So you decided to become a dive industry professional?
After a start with Decathlon I joined the Mares group in 1996, 20 years ago, as European Business Developer and Product Manager for the Sporasub Brand when the brand was taken over. I did this for almost 6 years and was hired by a fantastic man: Jacques Altimani, who was one of my mentors throughout my professional life.
I then worked for Beuchat International for nearly 4 years in Marseille (2002) as France and Export Marketing and Sales Manager. I was then E.ME.A. Dive Division Manager for Aqualung France (2007) for 4 years, based in Nice, and another 4 years as Global Dive Business Line Manager for Aqua Lung International, in Vista CA, directly responsible for the global Aqualung dive strategy, product ranges, competition monitoring and global performance.
I returned to Mares in Rapallo on December 1st, 2014 to give birth to the complete Mares│XR range. Living the dream…
Are you also teaching?
Yes, at the same time I decided to become a Dive Education professional. I went back to school and became:
Instructor Trainer and SSI XR Technical International Training Director
- PADI Course
Director - EFR Instructor Trainer - DSAT Tec Instructor Trainer
- SDI - TDI
Instructor Trainer: Nitrox to Adv Trimix, Helitrox, DIR, Full cave, Sidemount, Technical DPV, O2 Service Tech, Gas Blender. Rebreather: Inspiration , Evolution, Megalodon, MK6 & 7, JJCCR, Optima, Submatix
Instructor - CMAS Instructor ***
- Commercial diver - INPP Scaphandrier 2B
As one of the precursors to Tek diving in France, I set up one of the first Technical Diving schools in 2000: Aquatiks, which I still own but no longer manage.
Tell us more about deep wreck discovery and exploration…
With the school I turned to the exploration of deep wrecks in the Mediterranean and founded 2 diving teams, Triade and later Pythéas, which discovered and explored more than 25 wrecks below the 60m depth zone.
Over the past 15 years with the teams we discovered, and were the first to dive, some of the most famous and renowned deep wrecks off the French coast. To name a few:
- The Protée submarine (130m), La Ciotat
- The shipwreck of Natal (120m), Toulon
- The Guyane/Niedersachsen (110m), Toulon
- The Bananier, La Ciotat
- The Sally of New York, Toulon
- The Stella, the Phoebus
- The Maréchal Canrobert (120m) off the port of Marseille 4 years ago.
This passion is a drug. I am also the author of numerous articles on the subject for many magazines, newspapers and web sites.
What about cave diving?
I have also managed to dive some of the most famous caves and mines in the world, to name a few:
- Emergence du Ressel, Landenouze, Marche-Pied, Saint-Georges, Saint-Sauveur, Trou Madame, Cabouy, Pouymessens, Font del Truffe, Bestouan, Sormiou, Saint-Cézaire, Malansac, Opéra de Paris in France
- Devil’s Eye/Ear Ginnine Spring, Peackok Spring, Manatee Spring, Little River Spring, Crystal River Spring in Florida, USA
- Dos Ojos and Sac Aktun system, Angelita, Chac Mool system, The Pit, Pet Cemetary, Blue Abyss in Mexico
- Ordinskaya in Russia
- Ojamo Limestone Mine in Finland
Although I am not actively teaching leisure diving anymore, I am still an avid technical, cave and rebreather diver and actively teaching tek, particularly mixed gas rebreathers, deep wrecks and full cave.
Now, I share my time between Nice (France), Rapallo (Italy) and Moscow (Russia). I have 2 boys, 8 and 12, both divers, from my first wife and I was gifted with another 12 year old boy from my new wife. Believe it or not, they all push me to dive…
I am always looking for a new cave or a new deep unexplored wreck… but also any uncommon exceptional diving, no matter where! I want to dive more, learn more, and share more.
So welcome to the blog!
Thank you. I am very honored to have been invited to contribute on the blog. I will post soon about the story of the MARES│XR line. Stay tuned…