Ice, Ice, Baby!

Lysanne Richard
In a world’s first, Canada’s Lysanne Richard dives into a hole in a frozen lake from 22m

Lysanne Richard, mother-of-three and regular podium finisher at the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, is also a persistent and tireless mind when it comes to growing and pushing her sport. Cliff diving may have been put on ice during the past year, but the creative Canadian took that saying in its most literal form recently when she embarked on her coldest ever adventure to perform the first high dive into a frozen lake in the Appalachians.

The frozen world premiere took place in an old quarry on March 13, 2021, on a private property in the Thetford region in Chaudiére-Appalaches, an area with a long mining history on the south shore of Quebec. Taking it one step at a time due to the challenges of diving outside in the winter in Quebec, Richard and her team worked their way up from 3m test dives before she made the historic leap from 22m, more than twice the height of the Olympic platform.

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Richard leaps from the platform 22m above the ice hole. Photo: @fblphotographe.

"Frozen and satisfied," said the 39-year-old after emerging from the frigid water. "Honestly, it's quite cold! But seriously, the satisfaction of the work done is more than worth the numbness."

Having experienced temperatures as low as -33°C (-27.4°F) during the lead up phase, conditions on the day of the actual ice dive were windy but slightly 'warmer', at -14°C (6.8°F). The ice on the lake was 60cm (24 in) thick, and it took the crew five hours a day to cut the hole in the shape of an ellipse of 8m (26 ft) wide by 12.2m (40 ft) long. Overnight, the ice would grow and disguise the diving location from the previous day.

"Rarely have I stepped out of my comfort zone so far," admitted Richard. "Already high diving, at the dawn of my 40th birthday, is pushing my limits, but doing it outside in the middle of winter in the cold, phew, it's hard to imagine a greater challenge. How did I manage to get there while remaining confident? I focused on what was in my power and then on my benchmarks. The simulations of my dives that I did directly in the open wind on the platform were part of the preparations that allowed me to face the challenges."

It takes a lot of enthusiasm and a big team to make a frozen dream like this come true: Divers with a lot of experience in the cold water, ice management experts and apnea divers for the safety, a landowner that provides access to his quarry and a film crew that captures the whole process on camera to display the achievement to the world.

"One of my missions is to demonstrate that nothing is impossible, even our wildest dreams," said the former Cirque du Soleil performer. "The important thing is to take it one step at a time and find the right allies. What strikes me the most about this project is that you can accomplish the unimaginable when working as a team."

It was not only extreme temperatures Richard had to get used to, but also diving wrapped up in a 5mm wetsuit including a hood, gloves and boots. These heavily clothed practice dives took place in Montreal's Olympique Parc where a platform installed right below the roof allows 20m dives.

"It was destabilizing; first of all by the loss of mobility and secondly by the fact that I accumulate water in the suit and therefore I become much heavier when I jump. Also my vision gets obstructed by the hood and the water which comes out during my acrobatics," she explained after a couple of indoor test dives.

The ice dive was part of a TV documentary about the Canadian athlete. Together with Apnea City, the first AIDA and PADI freediving school in Canada, they analysed the size of the hole which needed to be cut into the ice and specific communication codes were defined for the diver's leap of faith.

"In the documentary I share my motivations for this kind of challenge, this quest, what inspires me, what am I looking for? The documentary will allow others to learn more about my deep motivations. I consider myself privileged to get to live and share such experiences!"

Stay tuned on Richard's social channels for the release of the documentary @lysanne_richard.