ASP 2021 – Amber Fillary – Free Diver & Ice Diver

Amber Fillary is an inspirational athlete because she is everything that you don’t expect in a sport you probably have never seen! Amber has an incredible knack for holding her breath, and not just in a warm and comfortable swimming pool (where she is the SA record holder) but also while swimming under very thick ice. She is your most unlikely champion but one you should know about. Let me introduce our 2nd supported athlete of 2021.

Amber Fillary under 34cm of ice, 2020. Photo taken by Aleksander Nordahl

Amber is a South Africa national and Guinness World Record holder for static and dynamic free diving, the longest single breath hold under water of over 6 minutes and now the longest single breath hold, unsupported swim under ice. Despite the achievements she has no professional support, sponsorship or funding. She makes ends meet and makes things happen on a shoe string and manages to travel between South Africa, Berlin and Scandinavia to train, compete and break records. In between the training schedule she is also an artist and motivational speaker.

What is remarkable is that she is also a woman who suffers from depression, addiction and eating disorders. Her record breaking achievements don’t come lightly when you know those facts. In a time when it’s still rarely spoken about Amber wants to bring mental health to the forefront of people’s attention. And what better way than being a record breaking athlete.

“Depression robs you of your confidence and makes every task you attempt seem overwhelming. Doing something extreme like free diving really showed me that we are capable of achieving anything.”

Amber Fillary
Amber preparing for entry for her unassisted, single breath hold swim 2019

In 2019 she made her first attempt to break the women’s world record of a 50m single breath hold swim under ice. Sadly it failed which was a huge disappointment and mentally hard to deal with, but she came back at it in 2020 and not only broke the record she shattered it on 29. Feb in a frozen lake in Norway. Under 34cm of ice she swam 70m on one breath, no wet suit, no fins, just her bikini, goggles cap. You wonder what motivates someone to even try something so extreme. Amber told those who asked she did it to raise awareness of depression and how much it can take from you. But also to show herself and the world what you can still achieve if you find the right place to be mentally. And free diving is where she finds mental stability and clarity.

Free diving requires you to be in a calm state of mind, because the moment you become tense, you lose your ability to stay underwater for long periods.

Amber Fillary
Amber swimming on a single breath under 34cm of ice, 2020. Safety holes are cut in the ice every 10m in case of emergencies and safety lines are used in case Amber should become disorientated during the swim.
Photo taken by Aleksander Nordahl

That epic 70m swim brought Amber so close to the men’s record that she has now decided on her next goal – to break the men’s Guinness World Record. The hope was to do it in Feb 2020 but global travel, pandemics and restrictions being what they are it become to expensive and risky to try. Amber will push back the record attempt to winter 2021 which should also be a good enough amount of time to find a great sponsor for the trip to Norway and the set up needed there for a record attempt swim under the ice.

Amber is an athlete of a totally unorthodox nature, who reminds me of what humans are – fragile, and what humans can achieve no matter the handicaps – amazing things. I am excited to support on her next massive adventure.

Please do yourself and inspiration favour and follow her this year. Her story is remarkable. If you want to hear from Amber directly she is available for motivational talks and if you fancy swimming with this champion, she also teaches swimming in SA and Berlin when she is here. You can find lots more cool photos and videos of Amber under the ice on her website and instagram page.
Instagram: @amber_fillary

Amber Fillary in her element – under water