Some believe swimming in freezing water has a spiritually cleansing effect. Others think grabbing a dip outside in the winter promotes good health by increasing circulation, enhancing mental awareness, relieving stress and curing aches and pains.
All we know is it takes bravery and hardiness to plunge into icy waters.
So don your bathing suits (no wet suits allowed!) and get ready to exercise in hypothermia-inducing waters. Here are five of the best places to take a winter swim.
Every weekend, this winter swimming club carves out a hole in the frozen Bezdonnoe Lake near the forest town of Serebryaniy bor. The group believes ice swimming strengthens the immune system. We suspect those who join them and submerges their bodies in water with a temperature below 53 degrees for more than a minute put that theory to the test – whether they mean to or not.
Polar Bear Plunge – Scotland, New York and the Netherlands
Several countries around the world indulge in this New Year’s Day tradition. The biggest event is in Scheveningen in The Netherlands, where an estimated 10,000 people collectively take a dip in the resort town’s icy seawater. South Queensferry in Scotland hosts a similar event called Loony Dook, as does New York’s Coney Island Polar Bear Club.
Winter Swimming Festival – Denmark
The small town of Skagen lies at the very northern tip of Denmark. Extremely remote and home to only 8,500 people, it hosts an annual Winter Swimming Festival in late January or early February. Participants take ice-chilling dips in the waves at Sønderstrand near Grenen, with warming recoveries inside huge fire-heated tepees.
Harbin – China
Polar swimming is hugely popular in the city of Harbin. There are even domestic and international competitions held in pools carved out of the frozen Songhua River. The annual Harbin Ice and Snow Festival held in January typically sees Chinese and Russian winter swimming teams face off against each other in waters that are below 34 degrees.
Cold Water Swimming Championships – London
Every other year, the South London Swimming Club stages the UK Cold Water Swimming Championships at Tooting Bec Lido (the UK’s largest). More than 500 swimmers from across the country defy freezing temperatures in front of a crowd of around a thousand. The signature event is the 450-meter Endurance Challenge, where competitors struggle around two laps of the massive lido.
Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…
(Image: Stig Nygaard)