Annelie Pompe is an athlete and adventurer from Sweden (Gothenburg). Born in 1981, her upbringing took place close to the ocean, where she has always felt like she belonged, and here is where her interest in free diving stemmed from. She has many facets: athlete, adventurer, underwater photographer, yoga and freediving instructor or coach to name a few.
She is the only woman on Earth to have records for the highest climb and deepest dive, both without breathing apparatus. She has also conquered what is known as the “Seven Summits”, which are each of the 7 continents’ highest mountains.
The beginning of her story is a common denominator in many other adventurers' stories. In her early twenties, she was an IT student, but was quick to find out that she wasn’t inspired to follow that path. So she decided to leave school and headed to Dahab, Egypt. There, she began working as a diving instructor, as well as teaching yoga and climbing. Later, her world record in freediving was established.
A following trip to Nepal would be life changing. She saw Mount Everest for the first time and decided right then and there that she would conquer it. Some time later she became the first Swedish woman to climb its North Face.
One of the keys to accomplishing her feats is staying fit. By practicing various breathing techniques, she is now able to hold her breath for an impressive 6 minutes. This, together with yoga, helps her for both free diving and climbing.
Even though she considers herself a modest swimmer, Annelie is a proficient and competitive free diver. Years after getting her certification in scuba diving, she came to the conclusion that what she liked the most was no equipment diving. She was drawn by the challenge of going as deep as possible on a single breath. As she states, “It’s not only a physical challenge. You need to take your mental strength to a whole new level”.
After arduous training, her first achievement came, breaking the world records in variable weight free-diving on October 5th, 2010. On this occasion, she managed to dive down a distance of 126 meters without oxygen. From there, other accomplishments followed. An individual silver medal and also a team silver medal in AIDA (International Association for the Development of Apnea) World Championships. She also has the Swedish record free diving without flippers, at 72 meters of depth under the ocean's surface.
Training for freediving is not an easy task and requires much practice. Annelie spends most weekends during the Swedish summer training freediving techniques so she is able to deal with pressure, and also relax to enjoy the freedom free diving provides. Feeling good while diving is crucial.
She also has a demanding training regime she follows weeks before a competition. She starts with yoga early in the morning, stretching the whole area of her body surrounding her lungs. This enables her to take big breaths. This is combined with some weightlifting, pool swimming and running (cardio in general). She also practices what is known as “cycling-apnea”, where she uses a stationary bike underwater, holding her breath. Usually, she trains around 20 hours of free diving a week before competing.
Battling with fear is something to be aware of when free diving. For Annelie, there are two types of fear: good fear and bad fear.
Good fear makes you aware of the risks you are taking by participating in a certain activity. This helps for risk management, to minimize possible dangers and help fear go away.
On the other hand, bad fear acts as a limiting factor. This is usually not a logical process, making you incapable of moving forward and achieving your goals. To overcome this fear, you have to work on your mental game and learn how to put uncomfortable situations into perspective.
In 2019, a documentary about Annelie Pompe's attempt to be the first woman in the world to set a world record in freediving and climb Mount Everest was produced by Emil Sergel and Sebastian Näslund. She broke the world record in variable weight freediving at 126 meters, and was the first Swedish woman to summit Mount Everest from the north side.
Annelie’s life philosophy is all about passion. To find it, you have to look inside as opposed to outside. It’s all about doing what you find means something to you, not others.
In her words, “Take care of yourself, enjoy life and nature and always share what you have with others”.