Siberian Ice Swimming: A Surreal Experience Soon to Be a Part of the Guinness Book  

by Pool Builders on 04-30-2013 in Articles

The water is a brisk zero degrees, while outside the temperature hovers around -30C, and in the water a group of avid leather skinned swimmers brave the depths.

Known as one of the most thrilling concepts on Earth, winter swimming has formed a culture of €no limits€ around the world. More recently Russian and Siberia have come to be world leaders in this strange event. Siberia is a country of frozen beauty with relentless harshness in the winter. For the bravest of ice swimmers Siberia forms a surreal environment to host this extreme contest.

The competition was split over two days and two events, the sprints and endurance. The endurance was set aside for the toughest of the tough with expectations sitting around 1 km.

Cut into a frozen lake in Tyumen, two 25-meter pools are sculpted from the ice to form 2 lanes where the competition will be held. Circling the frigid pool is a one meter deep border made from frozen wooden planks, similar to this is the so called diving board which towards the end of the competition is so ice covered that is just forms part of the icy landscape.

The one meter deep boarder forms the only protection between the swimmers and them becoming a very well preserved ice cube, only to be discovered in the next Siberian summer.

As the temperature outside hit -24C, and with a conscious understanding of wind chill factor, the competition began. Fear was stricken one the eyes of the strongest swimmers when the came to the realization the after the swim there would be a 200 meter trek to the sauna.

The competitors struggled to spend more than 10 minutes outside before racing back to the sauna to thaw out, however the event expected at lease 20 minutes in the water. This mind-blowing feat of endurance saw experience ice swimmers tackle the 1 km event. Competitors explain that every piece of long hair on your body will freeze including your eyelashes, breathing is explained to be like inhaling wasabi and without goggles your eyelids will freeze closed.

Even after the swim is done, most is not all competitors require a helping drag from the water. By the time the swimmers reach the sauna there is a thin layer of ice coating your skin. Then the recovery process starts; firstly you are dried in the sauna then covered in wet towels and doused in cold then hot water. This process is repeated until nurses rub buckets of snow on your skin to get the circulation going.

This intimidating event is for the strongest at heart; at the end of the event you can see the sense of pride and euphoria at the sense of accomplishment. At the end of the day even with the language divide, there is a sense of camaraderie among all that were involved.
Back at the bar experiences are being shared, drinks are being had but this time with only a little ice.

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