Germany’s most successful female freediver with a competitive career spanning well over a decade, Anna Von Boetticher has, to date, set 33 national records and a world record. Anna set her first three national records in the depth disciplines just six months after learning to freedive in 2007, at her first international depth competition. She previous held the German Constant Weight (CWT) National Record and has won three bronze medals at AIDA world championships.
Born in 1970 in Bavaria, in the mountains near Munich, Anna studied theatre and literature in Germany and art history with Christie’s in London. In 2006 she opened a bookshop in Berlin, that she still owns, but is now managed by her mother, due to her many other commitments.
A lover of the mountains and the sea, Anna always had other passions in her life, including snowboarding and scuba diving, both of which she learned at a young age. Fascinated by the deep and motivated by her continual quest for a challenge, Anna – already a recreational scuba instructor – trained as a technical deep diver. In 2007, having already reached 130m on trimix, Anna was looking to widen her experience underwater. She took a freediving course and discovered not only a new passion, but also an activity that matched her search for an underwater sport that presented a physical and mental challenge, and for which she had a clear talent.
In 2011, Von Boetticher set a world record in tandem No Limits (NLT) with Italian coach and training partner Andrea Zuccari, with a dive to 125m, in which both were wearing masks (as opposed to nose-clips, which most freedivers would require for such depths). Shortly after setting this record, Anna attempted a world record in Variable Weight (VWT), with a dive to 130m, a depth she had reached on trimix years earlier, but this time she would reach on just one breath. At such depths, even seemingly small problems can lead to an unsuccessful dive, and unfortunately, a technical issue with Anna’s mask led to her having a black-out on her way back up to the surface. Confused by what had caused this unexpected loss of consciousness, Anna and her team investigated at length and discovered a previously unknown (within the freediving world) cause of black-outs related to prolonged pressure on the eyes. So while Anna’s attempt didn’t have the desired outcome, valuable lessons were learned for the benefit of the freediving community.
What is less known about Anna is that, despite her desire for challenge and adventure, she faces other physical difficulties. She suffers from an autoimmune disease that affects her thyroid and immune system, and – amazingly for a freediver – due to a curvature in her spine that compresses the left side of her rib-cage, she can only utilize 70% of her total lung volume. Regardless of these potential limitations, Anna is an avid cross-fitter, active in many sports and continues to explore her limits within freediving.
Currently, Anna is working with the diving units of the German Navy, including the special forces and navy seals. With Anna’s combined experience in freediving and technical scuba diving, she is helping to improve their apnea and redesigning all the apnea elements of their training and safety practices.
Anna has also just written her first book on many of the adventures she has had throughout her life so far, which is due to be published in 2019. On top of all of all of this, Anna has also been an underwater body-double on a film, has been a brand ambassador for Oris Swiss watches since 2013, she was a commentator on the live DiveEye feed for the Molchanova Grand Prix held in Ibiza in September 2018, and was freediving in the Antartic at the end of 2018.
Taking time out of her extremely busy life, Anna kindly shared with DeeperBlue.com some of the moments she is most proud of in her career, who she admires within freediving and why, some of the secrets of her training, and much more.
DeeperBlue.com: What continues to inspire your freediving?
Anna Von Boetticher: I have been drawn to diving since I was a child, in any way possible. It started by me holding my breath in the swimming pool at home, went to extreme technical diving with lots of tanks and then returned to the simplicity of the breath hold later on. I think I will always be drawn to explore the underwater world in some way. When I was little, I wanted to be an astronaut and be part of the first mars mission – going to the depths of the ocean is a little bit like that flying to the moon: it means to explore the unknown. I never tire of it.
DB: Who do you most admire in the freediving world?
AVB: I most admired Natalia Molchanova. She dominated the sport but was able to keep a balance in knowing what is truly important in life. She is missing terribly from our little international family.
DB: What are your favorite place/s to freedive?
AVB: That’s so hard to pick! I love the Red Sea since it is so easy to get to from Europe – and it is one of the places with the most stunning underwater life in the world. I do also like Dean’s Blue hole a lot, but it is a long way to go.
DB: Can you tell us about any exciting locations that you would you love to freedive?
AVB: Where do I start? The world is so full of exciting places I have yet to see! My next place is Greenland – I am going there to brave the cold and explore diving under the ice next to icebergs. A huge adventure and I am largely going because I want to experience Greenland, with freediving thrown in.
DB: What would be your best piece of training advice for beginner/intermediate freedivers?
AVB: Don’t wait for perfect! Sometimes the weather isn’t amazing and there are some waves or a little current – trust your abilities and dive. If you only dive when everything is ideal, you will never truly find out what you can do and you will be very limited by conditions. Go out on the bad days, go out sometimes when you didn’t sleep well, and see what you can do and how you feel. That way, you will learn to judge yourself on any day in any situation. That is a critical skill that is much overlooked in freediving.
DB: Top freediving athletes favor a variety of dry training methods. What is your preferred form of dry training and why?
AVB: Out of the water I train mostly Crossfit. It is a high-intensity training that creates astonishing fitness in a short time and is, most importantly, highly anaerobic. It is also mentally tough, which translates very well into freediving, as it requires a great amount of focus and mental resilience.
DB: What is your pre-dive preference: breakfast or fasting?
AVB: I tend to have breakfast, but early enough, at least 2,5 hours before the dive. Usually, it’s oatmeal with half a banana. I find that I do better on the dive if I have the energy to swim.
DB: What general nutritional principles do you follow?
AVB: I eat reasonably healthy and do not cut out anything completely, I believe that going extreme in any direction is not working – certainly not for me. Recently I have learned that I need to eat way, way more protein than I thought, especially when I am in CrossFit training – otherwise, I just do not build muscle! Increasing my protein intake has been a game changer with drastic results for me.
DB: What important life-lessons has freediving given you?
AVB: Freediving has taught me to trust my instincts – when to go beyond what I thought I could do and when to bail. I have developed a very good ability to judge myself in a given situation – a lesson for life that is very valuable and translates into many situations.
DB: Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
AVB: I hope to have had many more great underwater adventures and to have traveled/be traveling to some unique places around the world! I also hope I am still enjoying freediving as much as I do now, and that I keep developing and learning new things, as this is really what I love and what drives me. I also hope to have my second book out by then, but for now, I’m focusing on getting the first one finished and published!
DB: Can you describe your most memorable or significant dive?
AVB: There are many! If I have to pick one, it might be a dive I did just at the start of the season in Sharm El Sheikh. I was just pulling down slowly, freefalling early, just relaxing and allowing my mind and body to adjust to the depth and being underwater. I dropped to 40m, turned at the bottom and opened my eyes, still very dreamy, and out of the blue, a huge manta ray sailed towards me. He came right up, very close, circled me and then disappeared into the distance, while I made my way back to the surface. It was just such a magical moment, the open water, the blue, the light, and the visit from this ocean spirit – magical. I never forgot it.
DB: Which of your achievements are you most proud of, and why?
AVB: I suppose I am especially proud of the tandem no limits dive to 125m with Andrea Zuccari. It was just such a perfect way to train and we were so in tune with each other and it is still a miracle to me that I made it down there with a mask. This means a lot to me, as I love seeing – that moment when I open my eyes at depth is one of the main reasons why I freedive. I have been trying to use the noseclip but I must say, I truly miss the dive, I miss that moment of clear vision. I will always dive deep with a mask, as this is what I am after, in the end: to experience the deep, in all ways possible – that includes seeing it.