When Alexey Molchanov dove into Lake Baikal in southern Siberia after walking on its one-meter thick ice, he wasn’t doing it to see how long he could last in the cold.
The champion free diver broke the world record for the deepest free dive under ice with fins; he now has 20 world records to his name.
Diving is a family tradition for Molchanov, whose mother, Natalia, set 41 of her own world records and won 23 world championship titles. In all of her glory, Natalia Molchanov never sought sponsorship but rather taught others how to dive. She became the only woman in free diving’s history to break the 100-meter barrier in 2013. Two years later, she did not resurface during a recreational dive in Ibiza and was never found.
Alexey kept his mom’s teachings alive and started manufacturing free diving gear under the Molchanovs brand. It includes three different apparel collections, top-of-the-line wetsuits, flippers, and other items. Molchanovs also offers free diving certifications, and Alexey heads the Russian Free Diving Federation.
To this day, Natalia’s son and curriculums across Russia and Eastern Europe still use her techniques and knowledge on the sport.
“Free divers like exploring their physical and mental limits,” said German champion Anna von Boetticher. “We like challenging ourselves. We are full of curiosity in what we can do, what else we can experience, and cold water is a very intense experience.”
A 2019 report estimated that the equipment market for free diving’s sister sport, scuba diving, would grow to $1.38 billion by 2022.