Amber Fillary sets 104.8m underwater swim record

South Africa’s underwater ice swimming record holder, Amber Fillary, has completed a record breaking 104.8m underwater swim with just one breath. 

The swim at Tooting Bec Lido, which was watched by a crowd of hundreds, took Amber Fillary a time of 2 minutes and 43 seconds (without fins). 

Amber swam the length of Tooting Bec Lido (91.44m) and then turned and added a further 13.4m before surfacing.  

The two current records for swimming underwater with just one breath are held by Omar Hegarzy. In April 2022, the Egyptian national (who lost a leg in 2015) swam 56.48m without fins. He then donned fins and swam 76.7m with fins. 

Swimming the length of Tooting Bec 

Tooting Bec Lido is one of Britain’s oldest and largest open-air pools, at a length of 100 yards (91.44m). It’s also the pool where Amber first experienced the thrill of ice swimming. 

Since it first opened in 1906, no one has ever swum a full length of pool on a single breath, which is one of the reasons South London Swimming Club was keen to host the event.

“In my early 20s I was employed as a lifeguard for the South London Swimming Club at Tooting Bec Lido Pool, a pool that was kept open even during the winter months,” said Amber. “I would regularly join the club members in breaking the ice and swimming in the freezing water. This is where my cold water addiction started, as I experienced the amazing high you get from being in the icy water!”

A ‘teaser swim’ 

Amber described her Tooting Bec Lido triumph as a ‘teaser swim’. In December 2022, the pool is due to close for refurbishment. Amber hopes to complete the 100m distance again, as part of her training for a new underwater cold water swimming record in Norway.  

“It is such an honour to be able to go back to where it all started and use the swim as part of my training for the new attempt,” said Amber. “By then the weather will be considerably colder in the UK and I am hoping the water temperature will be below 10 degrees, making it a great opportunity for me to practice!”

Amber’s next challenge

Amber is an under-ice female free-diving world record holder, motivational speaker and artist. She has a life-long passion for free-diving and apnea swimming (distance, depth or timed swims using a single breath). 

More recently, she has focused on apnea swims in ice cold conditions. Between 2019 and 2021, she achieved three Guinness World Records for apnea swims. 

She currently holds the world record for the longest swim under ice on a single breath – 90m – which she completed in March 2022, in a time of 2 minutes and 35 seconds, wearing only a bikini and goggles. 

Amber is currently fundraising for her next challenge – to swim more than 100m under the thick, frozen ice of the Norwegian lakes in March 2023. 

“The problem with setting records is that you always want to push yourself harder and further to see if you have what it takes to do more,” says Amber. “After my coach mentioned tackling the 100m to me when I completed the 90m swim in 2020 in Norway, it has been something I have been working towards and hope to attain in March 2023!”

Read more about Amber Fillary and her record attempts. Help her reach her next goal in Norway. Read about more incredible endurance swims via our news page.

Photos: Patricia Richardson.

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Jo is the Gear Editor for Outdoor Swimmer and also writes news and features for the website. A keen open water swimmer and long-distance walker, she loves seeking out lakes and lidos close to her home in the Mendip Hills, Somerset. She is the author of The Slow Traveller, editor and founder of independent magazine, Ernest, and has previously tested outdoor clothing and kit for BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC Focus and Ernest Journal.