The Red Bulletin November 2019 (UK)

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Anna von Boetticher can

hold her breath for six

minutes and 12 seconds

– longer than anyone else

in her native Germany.

But when the 49-year-old

isn’t underwater, she can

barely catch her breath

as the words gush out in unbridled

enthusiasm for freediving, a passion she

only discovered 12 years ago. Since then,

she has set an impressive 33 diving

records in her homeland, as well as one

world record, and earned three world

championship bronze medals. But for

Von Boetticher the appeal doesn’t come

from titles or trophies as much as it

does from diving in unusual locations.

That’s what she was doing in Greenland

this year, plunging into a frozen fjord

with diving partner and photographer

Tobias Friedrich.

the red bulletin: You could dive

anywhere and yet you chose an icecold

location. Why?

anna von boetticher: I’d just been

through a turbulent time and needed

peace of mind, and the best place

for me to find that is in the extremes

of nature. It was in the minimal world

of Greenland that I was forced to

expose myself mentally and physically;

everything else stood still.

Your base camp was in Tasiilaq –

a place engulfed in ice for half the

year. What challenges did you face?

The main one was keeping warm when

the outside temperature is -27°C. It’s

better to freedive on an empty stomach,

but I knew that wouldn’t work if I was

standing in the cold for seven hours and

didn’t want to freeze. I had to eat an

extraordinary amount of high-energy food:

peanut butter, porridge, sugar. I wore

layer upon layer of clothing and made

precise estimates of how long I could stay

in the water. It was at the very limit of

the demands you can make on yourself.

condition are you in? What are the

external factors and how do you react

to them? Only then can you make an

objective decision not born from

feelings or ego. Having that sort of

control is one of the secrets to safe and

successful freediving.

How do you push yourself further

from there?

It takes great self-awareness of what’s

happening inside your body. Freediving

requires you to resist the natural urge

to breathe – do I really have to breathe

now or is it a false alarm? You realise

you can override an instinct and do a lot

more than you’d have thought. So the

next time you’ll face a new situation

with greater self-belief.

Do you ever panic when you’re

deep underwater?

I get scared, but I’ve never panicked.

I always react calmly to any problem

and set the fear aside for later. Anyone

can learn this: you just need to expose

yourself to new things. This way, you

learn to deal with the feeling of unease

we all experience, then proceed in spite

of it. Anyone who deliberately exposes

themselves to stressful situations will

eventually acquire greater peace.

Is there any part of your sport that

still surprises you?

Experiencing the underwater world is

intense, beautiful and different every

time. It’s hard to compare it to anything

else. As humans we don’t belong in it,

and yet we can adapt to a sufficient

enough extent to be able to spend time

there. That never ceases to fascinate me.

Instagram: @freediveanna

How do you know when you’ve hit

those limits?

You’ve got to be honest with yourself.

Of course I want to go a metre deeper,

and I do get annoyed when I don’t do

better than last time, but what physical

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