She Dove 374 Feet Without Taking a Breath

For Alenka Artnik and freediving, 'it was love at first sight'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 28, 2020 6:00 AM CST

Those watching the surface of the water were likely somewhat worried about Alenka Artnik, who was attempting to free dive to a depth no woman had before. But Tito Zappalá wasn't too concerned. Having taken an underwater scooter to depths of 200 feet, the safety diver watched Artnik ascend from the deep blue looking peaceful, her eyes closed. It was as though she was one with the sea, he told the New York Times. That's apparently important when setting a free diving world record, as Artnik did on Nov. 7. Wearing a monofin and a 4-pound weight around her neck, the 39-year-old Slovenian held her breath and descended 374 feet below the surface of the Red Sea, plucked a tag from the end of a guide line, then made her way back to the surface. The Times explains just how death-defying a feat it was: At 65 feet, her lungs were "compressed to a third of their normal capacity."

She funneled the air in her lungs into her mouth; "if any air escapes through their lips, diving deep becomes impossible without injury," the paper explains. She reached the end of the line after about two minutes, but the ascent was the real challenge. A diver can easily black out as oxygen levels deplete, and Artnik still had that weight around her neck. But at three minutes and 41 seconds, she cracked the surface, inhaling rapidly. After just nine years in the sport and two months training on site in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Artnik had become the first woman to reach such depths during a "constant weight" free dive, beating the joint record of 364 feet she held with Alessia Zecchini of Italy, and in such a way that suggested she hasn't yet reached her limit. It's pretty clear why. "It was love at first sight," she tells the Washington Post of her first freediving class in 2011. "Every cell of my body felt, 'This is me.'" (More world record stories.)

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