Freediving Legend Stig Åvall Severinsen Defies the Limits of the Human Body…Again

Stig Åvall Sev­erin­sen is arguably the finest free­d­iv­er in the world. He’s earned World Cham­pi­on hon­ors on four dif­fer­ent occa­sions, shat­tered numer­ous records, and once held his breath under­wa­ter for 20 min­utes while sub­merged in a shark tank. Yep, 20 minutes.

And yet, despite all of these accom­plish­ments, Sev­erin­sen recent­ly trav­eled to Green­land to notch an achieve­ment that is extra­or­di­nary even by his stan­dards: a 250-foot swim beneath a block of ice on a sin­gle breath, while wear­ing noth­ing more than a Speedo. In doing so, Stig broke the pre­vi­ous record of 236 feet ― which he also set. 

Guin­ness Edi­tor-in-Chief Craig Glen­day offered per­haps the best descrip­tion of Sev­erin­sen’s feat. “Some of our record achieve­ments are easy to attempt but not nec­es­sar­i­ly easy to beat, and some attempts–like these–are dif­fi­cult to attempt and dif­fi­cult to beat,” he told GrindTV.

“For Stig, it has always been about push­ing the lim­its of what a human body can do, and his record-break­ing suc­cess is tes­ta­ment to his tech­nique, atti­tude and physicality.”

Sev­erin­sen’s abil­i­ty to hold his breath under­wa­ter for pre­vi­ous­ly unfath­omable peri­ods of time is the stuff of myth. But as the super­hu­man Dane out­lined in his best-sell­ing mem­oir, Træk Vejret – mere ener­gi, min­dre stress (known as Breathe­ol­o­gy: the Art of Con­scious Breath­ing here in the U.S.), the skill is mere­ly a byprod­uct of phys­i­cal con­di­tion­ing and stress con­trol exer­cis­es. He even found­ed a web­site devot­ed to teach­ing oth­ers how to mas­ter the art of under­wa­ter ‘breath­ing’.

The icy swim he per­formed ear­li­er this month involved swim­ming toward an ‘escape hole’ in order to reach dry land. In an inter­view with GrindTV, he explained his mind­set dur­ing these epic undertakings:

“I’m par­a­lyzed in my whole body [and] the cold­ness doesn’t mat­ter. I’m way beyond that point. And I have to just keep work­ing, keep work­ing, keep work­ing. I have only to focus on work­ing. Push­ing my body to the max­i­mum lim­it. If your mind gets stiff, like your body, then the whole thing can be a dis­as­ter. Because if my mind freaks out, you’re going to pan­ic, and pan­ic is what kills. I just sleep almost, in that empti­ness and that free­dom. I kind of do every­thing in slow motion.”

Keep it up, Stig ― we can’t wait to see what you do next.