Hi, I’m Stig Severinsen.

I have been called the Ice Guru by Men’s Journal. Some of my other names are the Man Who Doesn’t Breathe and the Human Dolphin.

With four Freediving World Championship titles and multiple Guinness Book World Records to my name, people often fail to describe my chilly feats in words.

Some of my arctic accomplishments…

  • Became the first person to hold his breath for longer than 20 minutes

  • Be the first to swim 250 feet under the ice on a single breath of air

  • Be the only one crazy enough to dive into a freezing lake, wearing only Speedos

And this year, I can add a new Guinness World Record to the list. But this time it is not just about me breaking record. I have set out to break this world record at the start of 2020 to bring the focus on the importance of protecting the oceans from overfishing, plastics and other unnatural destruction. I also want to show that in these trying times, you should never give up chasing your dreams. If I can set a physical world record at the ripe age of 47, I hope it inspires you to pursue what you want and do best.

Longest Dive in the Ocean on a Single Breath: Video, Validation

250 feet Ice Dive in Speedos: Video, Validation

Previous AmA from 2012


Free eBook and Breath Training Course

Comments: 1829 • Responses: 48  • Date: 

acluelessadult4700 karma

What do you mean you can hold your breath for 22 minutes? Are you part whale?

Davecasa4213 karma

While 22 minutes is ridiculous, that's in freezing water after breathing 100% O2. His air record is a "mere" 8 minutes 40 seconds, if you want something to compare yourself to.

StigSeverinsen3309 karma

Yes, very correct...now more likely 9-10 min in training - but about half the time - this is correct. There ar emany disciplins and styles in freediving. Mainly about length, time and depth.

TooAwareToCare778 karma

Does it feel noticeably different doing the 100% oxygen in cold water vs air in warm water?

StigSeverinsen1082 karma

The dives are done in normal temperature - not ice! Here is one dive of 22 min - I know it says icy water somewhere - some journalist must have misunderstood deeply;) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqERqQj-ozc&list=LLBwjNsXVJH9hNuYmkfRA0_g&index=1596

DaddyAidan1442 karma

Do you have any tips for people who want to practice increasing their Lung capacity?

StigSeverinsen175 karma

There are many ways to start to get great improvement if you are currently get out of breath fast.

Breathe through the nose. Not only do the nose hairs clean the air, nitrogen oxide is created when breathing through the nose which helps the blood vessels expand. (See also here)

Swimming also helps, as the natural resistance of the water exercises all of your respiratory muscles.

Yoga and breath training exercises that train the diaphragm, the main breathing muscles, are key.

You can also use breath resistance trainers (where you blow in a piece of equipment and increase the resistance as it gets easier).

Good luck :)

Sharaghe186 karma

How does the freezing water help him here?

Catcross366 karma

It slows down your metabolism and rate of oxygen use is my assumption.

StigSeverinsen95 karma

Exactly - we cal all learn to relax more and use less oxygen - stress less;) https://www.breatheology.com/

MendaciousTrump92 karma

The Diving Reflex kicks in.

StigSeverinsen210 karma

Correct - MDR - we all have this "inner dolphin" as I call it - and we should train to access/activate it - that is what I do with all people I train. In Rehab, Navy SEALS, Olympian Athletes...not just divers/freedivers....."The key to relaxation is in the exhalation";)

Zymotical18 karma

Slows the metabolism so oxygen isn't depleted as quickly.

StigSeverinsen19 karma

Correct...and high CO2 tolerance;)

StigSeverinsen981 karma

Hi there - The 22 min. was the official Guinness World Record - on this category you pre-oxygenize with 100% pure Oxygen. You can read more on the GWR webiste. All humans share The Mammalian Dive Response (MDR) and can learn to hold our breath longer, relax deeper and stay calm in stressful situations.

Le_Bellman79 karma

I’d watch David Blaines Ted talk on holding his breath underwater, he goes pretty in depth about how it’s possible.

StigSeverinsen297 karma

Yes, David Blaine did a strong performance - big respect, especially considering he is not a professional/experienced freediver. He had great coaching from Kirk Krack & Team . It is not as easy as it looks on live TV. Funny sidenote - a few years ago David Blaine and Lenny Kravits were playing cards and having drinks with a friend of mine in New York - and David Blaine send a text to congratulate me on the 22 min. Guinness World Record;) Pretty cool dude;)


Kirk and his team are incredible; they are working on Avatar 2 now. We're proud of them!

StigSeverinsen24 karma

They do great work, indeed.....trained with Kirk MAAAAAAANY years back in the Norwegian fiords;) Saw him recently....still going strong;)

DenverStud34 karma

It was one of the most interesting TED talks I've ever seen too, still in my memory from ~2 years ago when I watched it

StigSeverinsen58 karma

Indeed - many details on his training and fears to overcome. As I mentioned above - A funny sidenote - a few years ago David Blaine and Lenny Kravits were playing cards and having drinks with a friend of mine in New York - and David Blaine send a text to congratulate me on the 22 min. Guinness World Record;) Pretty cool dude;)

haoken29 karma

I’m really curious about this, like how does this logistically work especially when exerting oneself? I’ve tried to go to two minutes and I feel like I’m dying.

StigSeverinsen138 karma

The main aspect is about RELAXATION - not what first comes to mind. But trust me on this part. That is also why we put so much emphazise on Relaxation (Imagery/Vizualization) BEFORE learning proper breathing and after that breath holding. You can learn a lot more from our main website and also from my book Breatheology - The art of conscious breathing - it is free for the world to downloand as eBook/PDF. Enjoy;) https://www.breatheology.com/free-ebook-covid-19/

letmeseem16 karma

Unless you're a heavy smoker or have lung damage, you can reach 3 -3.5 minutes in a week or two practicing only a few basic techniques, and you'll be able to do it comfortably without hurting or pushing through fear or panic. If you want to go longer than that, then the expert tips starts to matter.

But to reiterate; You can comfortably reach 3.5 minutes on pure mechanics.

StigSeverinsen12 karma

I always say that the real dive starts when the contractions start - which is usually after a few minutes. Getting past the first minute for beginners is generally about learning how to relax. Without being able to relax and control your mind, you can not overcome the mountain, so to speak ;) After that, it becomes about training CO2 tolerance, which is many benefits

BrokenFlowerPot9 karma

I'm guessing he is breathing pure oxygen a certain amount of time before the breath-hold (not saying that it isn't impressive!).

StigSeverinsen28 karma

Yes - Guinness World Record is on PURE Oxygen (max 30 min pre-breath) - that is what this specific discipline is all about. I was the first to break to magical 20 min barrier - in 2010 I held my breath for 20 min 10 secs (like the year) - in a shark tank - also Storytelling - so people can see sharks are not just out to kill/eat you and also to redefine science (human/diving physiology - and neurology) - See part of the dive HERE (you can also find the 22 min GWR I did on Discovery Channel - just go to out Breatheology Channel on YT): (from my old 2010 TED talk): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9c7tkljd3A

JChiccj880 karma

Do you prefer cold or hot showers?

StigSeverinsen834 karma

All showers are warm ;)

mistakenhat590 karma

Thoughts on Wim Hof? You seem to be in a similar profession :)

StigSeverinsen532 karma

I think what he does is very interesting. Cold exposure is a great way to step out of your comfort zone.

As long as it is done safely, I definitely recommend people to experiment with it.

There are multiple ways that lead to Rome, and I urge everyone to keep an open mind. Try out what works for you.

The framework that I created, Breatheology, combines various breathing techniques, including hyperventilation/deep breathing, but also many other ways of breathing.

shattasma114 karma

Also Wim also swam under a frozen lake in just a Speedo. Not to any significant depth but he did.

greymalken231 karma

I saw that. His actual eyeballs froze and he couldn’t see the hole in the ice he was supposed to swim out of. His. Eyeballs. Froze.

Edit: https://conradmagazine.com/interview-daredevil-adventurer-iceman-wim-hof/

There’s a video too where he talks about it. I think it was on Stan Lee’s Superhumans.

StigSeverinsen120 karma

Here from Denmark - the dive to beat Wim Hof back in 2010 - but my eye balls did not freeze (but my spine was cold - to the "bone" and I had senseless fingers for a year or two after a times;) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_y8TeORDTY

sdraz11 karma


StigSeverinsen18 karma

TzunSu52 karma

People not diving into frozen lakes in just speedos is such a weird claim. In Sweden we chop up a hole in the ice and jump in, often naked. Everyone from kids to grannies :P

StigSeverinsen55 karma

It is common practice in Denmark too :D (plus I am half Swedish) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JKvSVFHlPY

StigSeverinsen18 karma

That is true - In 2010 we had an Ince Winter in Denmark so I trained and beat the Wim Hof record: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_y8TeORDTY

Then beat my own record (again) a few years later in Greenland - it is still the current Guinness World Record - maybe a good challenge for you;) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-Mr1RV3Qxc&t=8s

RivinX547 karma

What's your training regimen for holding your breath?

StigSeverinsen873 karma

You know what - I'll let you in on a sneak peak. ;) I have recorded my last physical workout before the training and uploaded it to my channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsjVPF3NN3Y

It is a combination of physical training, endurance training and lung flexibility training. Note: I also had to swim for this record.

BUT the most important part of your training is to learn to STAY RELAXED. I have mastered this as I have been doing this for years, but if you are just starting, you want your mind to go quiet, and imagine a very pleasurable memory so you can stay in the zone and not focus on the clock.

wickzer220 karma

What is your memory here? (hopefully this isn't too personal a question).

StigSeverinsen640 karma

It is not necessarily the same memory. It can be thinking about my old home town Aalborg. Biking up a steep hill with my brother. My sweet grandmother that passed away this year. Go with whatever flows as a positive memory and then focus on living that memory during your breath hold.

CylonSloth369 karma

Is jumping in icy water comfortable for you now? Or do you still get the shock us normal mortals have?

StigSeverinsen543 karma

haha - brilliant question. YES, when I have not trained my body and mind for a while I also get the chills;) But of course I have experience and use my slow breathing to stay calm and in control. However, I just lived nearly 3 months in beautiful warm La Paz, Mexico (training for The 2020 Dive/New Official Guinness World Record) - so coming back to Denmark has been a cold experience...haha - But love the cold dips....so refreshing...try it out;)

Marmoth409140 karma

Warm-La paz

Jesus as a Mexican those are the coldest water in Mexico,(The entire peninsula that is), I cant tolerate anything less than cancun.

StigSeverinsen152 karma

Must go an see Cancun/Tulum soon...Love Mexico and the people - hope to be back soon for more training and adventures (and ceviche and guacamole;).....jejejejejejeje

ImSpartacus811261 karma

I just set the Guinness World Record for longest distance swim in the ocean on a single breath.

How much did you have to pay Guinness World Records to accept the record?

You always hear that they effectively make money off of charging people for records and I'm curious how it worked for you.

StigSeverinsen386 karma

Hi there - a normal record takes 12 weeks for pre-approval, but now with Covid has gone up to 16 weeks. I paid for Express pre-approval and belive it was around 700 USD. Same for final approval of the record (it is a lot of paperwork, files and proof and must be ratified by the GWR Record Approval Team. Price for Express Approval is about the same (or it will take 16 weeks). But you can do all records for free if you have all the time in the world. The process is still the same. In my case we needed an Appointed AIDA Freediving Instructor Trainer and various permits for the Marine Park in La Paz, Mexico. The project took about 2 months to set up with all from rescue boat planning, logistics, rope measurement, First-Aid Kit, Safety divers training, Captains drills, evac boat and much more. Drone pilots, test dives and so on. We had great help from Cortez Expeditions in La Paz (a local dive and expedition center) but you can also do all this alone.

afrorocks198 karma

Do holding your breath for long periods of time in many years causes permanent/temporary brain damage ?

StigSeverinsen269 karma

This is a question that I get a lot - and the short answer is no. The reason why is because the body has several defense mechanisms in place that would prevent damage from occurring when holding your breath voluntarily.

When you do a breath hold of 3 minutes long, you are not in any danger of damaging your brain, as while you hold your breath plenty of oxygen circulates in your body, even though the concentration slowly declines during the breath hold.

For the first few minutes, there likely will still be over 90% oxygen in your blood. Damage to the brain due to a lack of oxygen occurs only when the oxygen concentration drops under 50% for 4 minutes or longer, or if the blood flow to the brain is blocked (e.g. blood clot or heart attack).

Technically, it is a lack of oxygen that does the damage, but a voluntary breath hold will not create this situation. If you learn to push past the contractions of the diaphragm and reach a nirvana like state, the worst possible scenario is a blackout. This is why I strongly advise against doing breath holds in water while alone - to prevent drowning.

It's puzzling that even some doctors and medical professionals are confused by this and state that if you hold your breath for a few minutes you are killing braincells. It's simply not the case.

RaigonX181 karma

How do us mortals get to your level? How many times did you practice in a day?

StigSeverinsen211 karma

The most important qualities are time and patience. Don't go for quick fixes. I see many people use hyperventilation to get to 2 or 3 minutes; but you miss the point as you are not learning how to relax and build CO2 tolerance. You can get started with my free 7-day Breath Hold Challenge

Sahiiib86 karma

What made you want to be able to hold your breath for insane amounts of time?

StigSeverinsen101 karma

Childhood swimming, traveling the world - becoming a Marine Biologist...plus all the health benefits, feeling strong and now today - blessed to shar emy message witht the world and make people aware of the many benefits of conscious breathing - for Covid-19/Corona, Optimized Health & Performance....Mental calm etc.... more here: https://www.breatheology.com/

brandnewchair57 karma

The average television sitcom is about 22 minutes long without commercials.

Have you ever tried holding your breath for an entire episode of The Office?

StigSeverinsen42 karma

Nope - but Friends;) Try for yourself - here is my dive;) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqERqQj-ozc&index=391&list=LLuXuRrPCAsP6fweZcU-R-xw

--Ty--57 karma

Oh, this thread is sure to turn out to be a fascinating one! I've never been able to understand how a person reaches the level you've reached. Thank you for doing it.

I have two questions, I think a lot of others will want to know as well:

  1. If we're looking to increase our lung capacity and oxygen efficiency, are there any programs or training regimens you swear by, or would recommend to a beginner? Or was it as simple a matter as "Just try to hold your breath longer and longer each time you swim."
  2. Have you tried Wim Hof? If so, what are your thoughts on it, and if not, why not?

StigSeverinsen59 karma

Thank you, Ty.

In response to question numbero uno - I have created my own learning platform Breatheology and in the main post you can find a link to the free eBook and breath training course. They contain exercises and the background info on how working with your breath can, among other things, increase your vital lung capacity and increase your oxygen uptake.

I think what Wim does is very interesting, but I have not trained with him or followed his training methods so I cannot comment on them. We both have many records under our respective names, so both approaches have merit. ;)

Script_Thief41 karma

what goes through your mind while you’re not breathing?

StigSeverinsen27 karma

I employ different mind control techniques... sometimes I go back to my childhood or people I really care about and focus on the colors, smells and sound. Whatever makes you leave your body mentally. When I do the record attempts, I simply let go in my mind and my body does what it needs to do. I may not even remember doing it when I start breathing again ;) You'll find many of these techniques in my free eBook

managementgaming32 karma

What advice would you give to people who want to practice better self control? Are there any particular insights that come from your mental training?

StigSeverinsen66 karma

Start holding your breath on a daily basis. Even if it is just half a minute. Of course, on land and in a safe location. Because when you fight the urge to breath, you are fighting against the strongest reflex possible - life itself. Not only do you increase your CO2 tolerance, but you increase your mental resilience. To get started, I have created a 7-day Breath Hold Challenge where I give various tips. I bet you can double your breath hold time in a week. ;)

Fistfullafives29 karma

Is David blaine legitimate?!?

StigSeverinsen47 karma

Sure - I think he did a great dive. To perform a new Guinness World Record LIVE on Oprah is no small task. There are many "keyboard warriors/hero" who would probably claim it is "easy" (because you pre-oxigenate) - funny then, they did not do the (or ANY) record them selves;) I even got a text from David Blaine and Lenny Kravits (they were playing cards with a freind of mine in NYC) and he congratulated me and thought it was awesome I had done 22 minutes Guinness World Records - cool dude - nice thing to do;) - here is my dive - soon 1.5 MIO. views;) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqERqQj-ozc&index=391&list=LLuXuRrPCAsP6fweZcU-R-xw

brianrohr1324 karma

How are you not braindead?

StigSeverinsen108 karma

Hi Brian,

I found my way to your comment - so I can confirm, my brain is still working ;)

It's a common misconception that breath holding will cause permanent brain damage.

The short answer is that you'll go unconscious when the oxygen levels drop below a certain % (generally around 55%). This is called a black out. In a few minutes, you'll be awake again and your body will stabilize itself.

Damage to the brain due to a lack of oxygen occurs only when the oxygen concentration drops under 50% for 4 minutes or longer, or if the blood flow to the brain is blocked (e.g. blood clot or heart attack). Your body goes into blackout to prevent his from happening.

Of course, if you are doing breath holding in water, you'll drown. That's why you NEVER want to breath holding in water (even if it is shallow water - like a bath tub) without supervision. I was always accompanied by a professional team in case I would black out.

trabbler16 karma

Who would win in a fight between you and Wim Hoff?

StigSeverinsen8 karma

Why on earth would we do that? But if you talk about "competition" that is another story. I beat his Guinness World Record in 2010 after he held it for 10 years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_y8TeORDTY

Then I beat it again (my own) when Discovery Channel made a documentary about my training, record dives and how I help people breathe better worldwide with Breatheology:


samfischer1111 karma

I understand the more you practice holding your breath the more your body can train itself to work with less. But is freezing cold water tolerance the same concept or is it all mentally trained tolerance?

StigSeverinsen11 karma

I would say there is a mental aspect to both breath holding and cold tolerance. But the biochemical aspects are different. Breath holding trains your CO2 tolerance and, when doing longer breath holds, increases your overall level of red blood cells. The claims for cold tolerance training that you can suppress your immune system and prevent inflammation. And even the mental aspects are different, in the sense that cold exposure teaches you to control your sympathetic nervous system, while breath holding teaches you to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. The first is not always a great and safe idea for everyone. As you can imagine, it may not be a grand idea to push a 80-year old lady in an ice cold pool. ;)

NudeRanch9 karma


StigSeverinsen27 karma

In many positive ways (but let us not get into the "wet specifics" of what you can actually do to/with your girlfriend - for 22 minutes....under water...in the Jacuzzi;);););) In general, better breathing also gives you better blood flow - and mind control - so imagine yourself how and when in your sex life that would be of tremendous aid;)

beeanchor13127 karma

Is there anything about you - that you were born with rather than learned - that gives you a physiological advantage in free diving? Is there ANYTHING that can give someone an advantage, or is it purely about discipline and training?

Also, as an environmentalist, I’m so grateful for the work that you and others are doing to highlight the importance of 2021 to the planetary crises.

StigSeverinsen13 karma

Over the last two decades, I have been a guinea pig for many scientists. We found out that I do have some genes that vary from "normal" people which give me a leg up. But that does not excuse me from training hard and full dedication to achieve mastery. I don't feel different, and the techniques I use can be used by everyone to great effect. :)

captmorgan506 karma

What does your mind do during this time? I have read about Grandmaster chess players losing weight during matches because so many calories/oxygen is going to their brains. I would think you would enter a state of mediation to save that oxygen? That correct?

StigSeverinsen7 karma

There are different techniques I use to make myself relaxed and take my mind away from the dive as that is the most important thing.

The brain uses an enormous amount of oxygen relative to other body parts (20% of the supply). That's why grandmaster chess players lose weight during a multi-day tournament.

But when breath holding, the body has its own defense mechanism called the Mammalian Dive Response (Diving Reflex). When this kicks in, it reduces the heart rate and restricts the blood transport to the limbs to ensure oxygen transport to the vital organs (including the brain): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diving_reflex