Breaking a Freediving Guinness World Record
Stig Severinsen knows how to make an impact and raise awareness. In November 2020, Stig did something no one else has ever done; he smashed the previous open water, distance swim world record of 177 meters (580 ft) set by Carlos Coste in 2016, with a beautifully fluid, symbolic 202.0 meter (662 ft) swim completed in a single breath.
His goal was to remind people, unavoidably focused on the pandemic, that preserving nature should remain a priority. He executed this incomparable feat off the coast of La Paz, Mexico, in the beautiful and abundant Sea of Cortez. Like many parts of the ocean, however, its ecosystem is threatened by plastic pollution so Stig’s swim in these waters was intended as a symbolic reminder of our collective responsibility to the environment.
Specifically, his hope was that his “2020 Dive” would inspire more people to take an active interest in ocean conservation.
“I had intended to break this World Record at the start of 2020 to bring focus to the importance of protecting our oceans from overfishing, plastic pollution, and other unnatural destruction. Then the pandemic struck and it was postponed to November. Ultimately, I have been able to raise ecological awareness and also demonstrate that even in these trying times, you should never give up on chasing your dreams.”
Stig Severinsen, World Record Freediver
Who is Stig Severinsen?
A freediving legend from Denmark, and known globally around all corners of the world, Stig’s love of water and holding long breaths started as a child when he would test his limits in his parents’ backyard pool in his native Denmark. This is also when a young Stig began his successful career as a competitive swimmer, awarded National Champion status four years in a row from ages 9 to 12. At the university level, his aquatic talents were put to use playing underwater hockey on the Spanish National Team.
As an adult, Stig’s athletic accomplishments have been nothing short of remarkable. First, in 2003, he achieved the World Freediving Record without fins swimming 166 meters (545 ft) on a single breath. In 2010, he once again leveraged the power of his impressive lung capacity and breathing techniques to break the magical 20-minute barrier for holding breath, and World Record, in a shark tank with a year-appropriate 20 minutes 10 seconds single breath dive.
Two years later, he followed up with a 22-minute underwater breath hold breaking his own record (a record that has since been broken and stands at 24 minutes 03 seconds).
In addition to November’s record-breaking “2020 Dive”, Stig holds and has held two other World Records achieved in less hospitable, frigid waters - one for swimming under ice with fins and a diving suit for 152.4 meters (500 ft) and another swimming under ice in a diving suit but without fins for 76.2 meters (250 ft).
How does he prepare for his record-breaking feats?
Stig has spent years fine-tuning his breathing techniques to optimize performance and to improve resilience and overall health. His book, “Breatheology – The Art of Conscious Breathing” and his website, breatheology.com, outline his tried and tested techniques. With a degree in biology and a Ph.D. in medicine, Stig is uniquely qualified to share insights on the practice and value of controlled breathing.
The disciplined practice of these techniques combined with swim workouts and rigorous yoga practice prepare Stig mentally and physically to attempt these superhuman feats. Stig emphasizes ‘practice’ believing it takes 10,000 hours to master anything properly which requires dedication, time, and perseverance – there are no shortcuts. The hours of physical training prep his body but ultimately, it is the mental training that is most important to his successful free-dives.
Conscious breathing and his yoga practice are instrumental in helping Stig clear his mind and keep calm and in control throughout his swims and free-dives. Because breath and movement are intrinsically linked, mastering your breathing technique optimizes the intake and saturation of oxygen which in turn fuels your muscles to perform better and positively influences your mindset.
How have the FORM Smart Swim Goggles helped him achieve his latest world record?
The beauty of freediving is in its simplicity – one person sporting only swimming goggles and sometimes a fin, immersed in beautiful silence, underwater. However, as a scientist, Stig also loves to track data as a way to improve training and results. The FORM goggles provide him with all the information he needs to assess his performance during his training swims - relying particularly on time, real-time heart rate, and distance as his most valuable metrics – all displayed on the goggles patented heads-up display.
The real-time data holds him accountable and motivated and helps him regulate his effort; this knowledge is especially important for his free-dives. While for the dive itself, it’s all about Stig knowing his elapsed time displayed in his goggles while controlling his breath.
What’s next for Stig?
Having retired once before only to return to break his latest (November 2020) World Record in La Paz, is he finally done? Well, Stig, coined “The Ultimate Superhuman” by the Discovery Channel, is committed to staying in top physical and mental form while doing his best to help us mere mortals see the value in mastering our breath through his online training platform, Breatheology.
In fact, his immediate plans are to focus on expanding Breatheology and delivering quality health and performance content virtually. He is about to launch an all-virtual “Breatheology Instructor Certification” program accessible to anyone around the world. As well, Stig and his team are rolling out a “Breatheology Business Breathing” platform specifically targeting companies seeking to support and nurture their employees’ wellness and mental health.
Years in development, Stig is very excited to start offering this programming, especially now, as we’re still in the midst of a pandemic its value seems particularly relevant given how work-life has been upended for so many. Remote work, isolation, safety protocols, lockdowns, etc. are all taking a toll but Stig is confident that the techniques outlined in “Breatheology Business Breathing” will help companies help their employees.
Whether he attempts additional world record free-dives is yet to be determined but he does intend to continue his work raising awareness for environmental causes and educating people on the value of good breathing practice in our everyday lives.
“We must not let fear and panic take over — we must not be paralyzed and forget to focus on climate change, nature conservation, human health, and well-being. My main message would be that with breathing practices and even breath-holding, we can regain control. Control over our body (health and fitness) and our mind (positive thinking and gratitude).”
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Further reading: CNN - Take a deep breath...freediver swims 662 feet underwater