The Insider SA meets discovers how record-breaking ice diver Amber Fillary was using the sport to overcome her challenges.

Amber Fillary is an exceptional swimmer who lives in and loves the Cape. In her pursuit to find healing from tough challenges in life, she’s become a record-breaking free diver who swims under ice in freezing temperatures with little protection despite goggles, a cap, and a swimsuit.

Amber, who already holds two South African women’s freediving pool records for static breath-hold at 6 minutes as well as distance breath-hold with no fins at 134 metres, has also now set a new World Record by diving 70 meters in freezing water.

She shares that “The temperature of the water that I swam in is about 1 degree,” before explaining that in preparation for the big day she began first training in a normal swimming pool to get the technique and work on her breath hold. She then went to Germany to acclimatise to the cold by swimming in their lakes, and eventually moved on to Norway to spend 10 days working out the formalities of the swim which included having holes dug in the ice and ropes added. 

“Swimming for me and being in the water is what I do to meditate. It’s the place I feel the most relaxed, comfortable and at home.”

Her love for free diving began while she was working as a lifeguard at a pool in London and the cold temperatures were what sparked her interest in sub-zero diving. This fassionation for swimming also extends to teaching others, which she does for work along with being a motivational speaker. 

“I’m a qualified swimming instructor. For me, water is my passion and it’s the place I feel comfortable and it’s nice to pass that on to other people.”

Free diving is a form of therapy to Amber who has suffered many challenges in her life. As a woman who has had battles with addiction as a recovering alcoholic and bulimic, the water provides a sense of freedom. She has also been aided by medication and support from family members.

With plans to break the men’s world record in 2022 Amber Fillary has her work cut out for her. We wish this champion all the best on her journey to find freedom through her passion for ice diving. 


How are you aspiring to live better?

“I am doing my best to be grateful for things. I exercise, do yoga and swim because water always makes me feel good and on a whole I enjoy the sunshine.”

What legacy would you like to leave behind?

“I hope that I inspire and help some people with my records and the challenges I have overcome.”

What 2 valuable lessons would you like to share with South Africa?

“That good friends are rare and very important so they should be valued. Also share, speak out and don’t be scared to ask for help support.”

Where do you go to escape and connect with yourself?

“The water is my place.”

Do you have an encouraging quote you’d like to share?

“Don’t let depression and addiction get in the way of your dreams. Move a muscle, change a thought.”