The Profile Dossier: Johanna Nordblad, the Ice Diver Who Finds Peace in Freezing Water
“You have only yourself to trust. You have to be relaxed and in control at the same time.”
Johanna Nordblad finds peace under the ice.
The Finnish athlete has set a record for holding her breath underwater for 6 minutes and 35 seconds. She currently holds the Guinness World record for a 103-meter (338 feet) horizontal swim under 60-centimeter thick ice. It took her 2 minutes and 42 seconds to get from one ice hole to another. She did it in a single breath.
In March 2021, at age 46, Nordblad shattered the women’s and men’s records for under-ice freediving.
Nordblad discovered ice diving by accident. She was recovering from a broken leg when she began doing cold therapy to help with the pain. “Cold therapy helped my leg exponentially – it reduces inflammation, swelling and pain,” she says. “But something else happens to the body in cold water. It’s hard to put into words – it’s almost like it intensely feels everything it could possibly feel.”
The cold brought her a sense of peace that she had never experienced before, and it was an addicting feeling.
The injury opened her up to the world of ice diving. It was a niche sport that tied together many of her existing passions — yoga, freediving, and art and design. She applied the focus and concentration she learned in yoga, the peace she experienced in freediving, and the creative elements of designing an underwater watch that can withstand the harshest ice dives.
“Spending just a couple of minutes in cold water gives me total relaxation of body and mind,” she says.
In Nordbland’s world, there is zero room for error. With one misstep, she could lose consciousness, suffer cardiac arrest, or die. “You have only yourself to trust. You have to be relaxed and in control at the same time,” she says. “Freediving requires physical effort, but mental discipline is even more important. You have to do the dive without panicking or losing your head.”
Watch this short video to see Nordblad in her element:
Here’s what we can learn from the athlete who shows us how we can let go of fear, discover our passion, and find peace in the process.