Bare-skinned freediver cracks ice-depth record 

Bloodied but triumphant - David Vencl after his under-ice dive
Bloodied but triumphant - David Vencl after his under-ice dive

Wearing only trunks, fins, cap and mask, “Czech Iceman” David Vencl has claimed a world freediving record after completing a chilling 52.1m vertical dive through an ice-hole in Switzerland’s Lake Sils.

Vencl, who is 40, claimed the record for deepest under-ice dive in a swimsuit on one breath on 14 March, although it will have to be officially verified by Guinness World Records. It took him 1min 54sec to retrieve a tag from the descent line and resurface – a little slower than he had expected.

Despite spitting out blood on surfacing, the freediver quickly cracked a bottle of champagne to celebrate his feat, and a subsequent medical check detected no physical damage. Water temperature at the site near St Moritz had been between 1 and 4°C and air temperature around 4°C.

Extreme cold resistance had also been key when Vencl first became a Guinness World Record-holder two years ago. That breath-hold dive had been in the horizontal plane, as the freediver swam 81m between ice-holes in a frozen Czech lake, wearing neither wetsuit nor fins. The dive, which took him 1min 35sec, still stands as the record and was reported on Divernet.  

Freediver David Vencl cracks open the champagne
Vencl cracks open the champagne

Vencl said of his latest achievement: “I did not improve some previous performance with this record, but I completely walked a path that no one has ever walked before. Sure, there have been a few attempts to go deep into the ice but always only in wetsuits, which makes a huge difference.”

‘Long, hard and painful’

Vencl described his training regime for the depth attempt as “long, hard and painful“. He said that two of his main concerns had been whether it would be possible to balance the pressure to a depth of 50m in the cold conditions and whether there would be a threat of barotrauma to any part of his respiratory system.

He and his team had concluded that while there was a risk, the dive would be unlikely to cause serious or permanent damage. “I walk on the edge, but always safe and in control,” he said. “I don’t want to do it again. I tried it and we move on.”

As a competitive freediver Vencl is ranked eighth in the Czech Republic by world governing body AIDA and is national Constant Weight Bi-fins champion (78m depth). Watch his latest ice-dive on YouTube.

Also on Divernet: Icebreaker: Freediver Sets World Record In Speedos, Icebreakers – Freedive Records Topple, New Sport? It’s Under-Ice Wakeboarding!, Ice Cool

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