Swimming Silently, Stig Severinsen
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.
When we think about open water swimming, we normally imagine people swimming on the surface of the water across lakes, channels or bays, or swimming along the shoreline. But swimming underwater has always been a challenge for aquatic athletes. In a formal setting, two events held at the 1900 Paris Olympic Games included swimming underwater.*
But the allure of the cold water and holding one’s breath underwater has been taken to a new level by 47-year-old Dr. Stig Severinsen who is an author with a PhD in medicine and a ripped body with a low percentage of body fat.
Dr. Severinsen has made impact on others throughout his long career. In November 2020 in the Sea of Cortez off the coast of La Paz, Mexico, Dr. Severinsen organized the 2020 Dive where he swam 202.0 meters underwater with a monofin, absolutely shattering the previous world record of 177 meters set by Carlos Coste in 2016.
His swim in the Sea of Cortez was intended as a symbolic reminder to protect the marine environment. He explained, “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.”
His freediving career records and achievements include the following:
- In 2003, he swam 166 meters without fins underwater
- In 2010, he held his breath for 20 minutes 10 seconds in a shark tank
- In 2012, he held his breath for 22 minutes
- He swam 152.4 meters under ice with fins and a wetsuit
- He swam 76.2 meters under ice without fins and a wetsuit
- In 2020, he swam 202 meters underwater using a monofin
* At the 1900 Paris Olympics, seven swimming events were contested among 76 athletes and included an underwater swim and an obstacle course on the Seine between the Courbevoie Bridge and the Asnières Bridge.
14 swimmers from 4 nations competed in the underwater swim that was scored by a combination of distance and time (in seconds):
- Gold: Charles Devendeville (France) 60 meters in 68.4 seconds (188.4 points)
- Silver: André Six (France) 60 meters in 65.4 seconds (185.4 points)
- Bronze: Peder Lykkeberg (Denmark) 28.5 meters in 90 seconds (147.0 points)
The 200 meter obstacle event required swimmers to climb over a pole and a row of boats, and then swim under another row of boats:
- Gold: Frederick Lane (Australia) 2:38.4
- Silver: Otto Wahle (Austria) 2:40.0
- Bronze: Peter Kemp (Great Britain) 2:47.4
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