Russian Woman Sets Longest Under-Ice Swim Record

Yekaterina Nekrasova, 40, has broken the world record for the longest under-ice swim. She set the record on — or under — Lake Baikal in Siberia, the world’s deepest freshwater lake.  To qualify for the world record, Guinness rules stated that she was not allowed to wear a wetsuit or fins. Wearing just a bathing suit, she covered 85m in the freezing water at an outdoor temperature of -7˚C. The swim took her 1.5 minutes.

Amber Fillary of South Africa set the previous record in 2020, when she swam 70m in Norway, so Nekrasova’s distance is a considerable step up. However, under-ice distance swimming is not exactly a mainstream sport, so records are still attainable by hearty, fit people.

Nekrasova’s swim also beat the men’s record, held by Avall Severinsen of Denmark, who swam 76.2m under the ice in East Greenland in 2013. He also holds the record for the world’s longest free dive — diving as deeply as you can and then resurfacing on a single gulp of air. In 2020, Severinsen dove to a depth of 202m.

On that record, Severinsen wore fins, and the water was much warmer than 0˚C, which partly explains the extra distance. The main difference between freediving and under-ice swimming seems to be the length of time those taking part are able to hold their breath. While under-ice swimmers currently max out at about two minutes, freedivers have held their breath for an incredible 10 minutes.

Nekrasova’s safety team cut holes in the 25cm thick ice at regular intervals so that she could abort the swim if necessary. Although the risks of ice-water swimming are numerous, this extreme sport is quite popular in Russia. Adherents insist that it improves the circulation and immune system and circulation. It even combats depression, they say.

The under-ice variation, being rarer, garners more attention but is much more dangerous. Recently, some social media influencers almost died by attempting the stunt much more poorly prepared than Nekrasova.

Below, her record-breaking swim.