“On a boat, being white, yellow or black no longer matters”

In Marseille, some draw a red line between northern and southern districts. This line which, in the imagination, separates the “precarious” from “haves”Muslims from Christians, “Whites” and “Blacks and Arabs”. Brahim Timricht erases it, as foam blurs a line drawn on wet sand. And the sea, precisely, is its first asset. “When you find yourself on the water, the differences disappear”, testifies this 48-year-old man, technical and sports director of the association Le Grand Bleu, which he founded in 2000. “In the face of immensity and in the face of risk, we are the same. On a boat, being white, yellow or black no longer matters. »

For twenty-two years, the association has made the nautical base of Corbière, in the northern districts, a snub to the tears of the city. Below the cities, traffic and ordinary racism, the basics of sea kayaking and paddleboarding are taught and lifeguards and lifeguards are trained. In 2021, 13,000 people were welcomed, while 1,700 children aged 6 to 12 learned to swim, thanks to the Big Blue, in the city’s swimming pools.

“I tell everyone: religion is in the heart and it stays at the gate. Here, we forget our differences and our preconceived ideas”, underlines this Muslim, who grew up here. During Ramadan, young practitioners, who follow the training of lifeguards until 10 p.m., know this. “We are not changing the hours. But I ask the trainer to plan a break so that they can drink and eat a little before resuming, to avoid any discomfort. » Everyone adjusts, with pragmatism.

The director does not hesitate to hustle, “to break the codes”. “At first, it was surprising! »he laughs, he who suffered from it, recounting having been, at 18, the only candidate of North African origin for the examination of the lifeguard swimmer’s certificate. “The silence when they heard my name…” it was thirty years ago. Today, the Big Blue training courses bring together sports license students (Staps) and young people from housing estates. And the paddle initiation it offers is aimed at both children and mothers from the neighborhoods, who we sometimes see, up to eight on a giant board, laughing as they try to balance. Often, they can’t get over being there, getting to know each other in a complicity made up of apprehension and pleasure.

It even happened to Brahim Timricht to sail together young autistic people and adolescents from a closed educational center (CEF). “At the start, the instructors made a funny face… But it was great! The young people of the CEF have been empowered, you should have seen their pride. » Just like, other times, the wonder of children born in the middle of concrete discovering so close to home the turquoise water of the creeks. “Wow, Brahim, it’s the Maldives here! »

Of course, the director concedes that he does not convince everyone and also arouses jealousy, as the association grows – Le Grand Bleu is solicited by the social centers as well as by the prefect for equal opportunities. “In France, there are many opportunities to act, for example the Quartiers d’été program. It is up to everyone to mobilize and seize them. »


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