Walking around in short pants and t-shirts is not unusual during the winter months in the Cayman Islands or Hong Kong, so when the water temperature dips below 20ºC (68ºF), the climate is considered chilly.

While swimmers from Boston to Cork to Melbourne to Cape Town believe 18-19ºC (64-66ºF) is bordering on the comfortable-to-warm side, those water temperatures will be a challenge to local swimmers and triathletes in Hong Kong.

The February 23rd Cold Half event, produced by Doug Woodring, is modeled after Asia’s most popular marathon swim, the Clean Half, except the water temperature of is more to the liking of marathon swimmers, channel swimmers and adventurists of various types.

The Cold Half follows the course of the Clean Half, held in October. “This is for those looking to practice for channel crossings and other ultra-extreme swimming events,” said Woodring. “The Cold Half is a new opportunity for experience and distance in extreme open ocean swimming. Among those competing in the 15 km race this weekend includes a 2-time Hong Kong Olympic swimmer, and U.C. Berkeley swimmer Hannah Wilson. Swimmers from the UK, Malaysia,and Australia are participating in addition to the local Hong Kong athletes.”

Stretching from Stanley to Deep Water Bay, the relay course runs along Hong Kong’s most stunning views. The race is open to solo swimmers, or relays of two people. If in a relay, swimmers take turns doing 30-minute segments, until they finish the race. “Like the Clean Half, the race is both a celebration of the amazing water and geographic assets we have in Hong Kong, combined with extreme sports, and an appreciation of the environment. This is our first Cold Half race. We only expected a few people, but the turnout has been great for a cold event. We expect this only to grow in the years to come as people realize the beauty of Hong Kong’s waters, level of competition here, and the ability to train for an extreme swim within the region.” Swells are forecast to be over 2m in height in spots.

The race will start at Stanley Main Beach where the swimmers will encounter the Wall treats them on their way to the finish. The Wall is one of the only body surfing sections known to be found in open water swims in Asia. It is an 800m section of rock wall on the Stanley Peninsula where swimmers can virtually ride the waves downwind as they swim.

The challenge next year, for the ultra-athletes out there, will be to do both the Cold Half, and the Standard Chartered Marathon, on the same weekend. Some of the proceeds from the event will be donated to Ocean Recovery Alliance, a Hong Kong based charity that focuses on ocean protection, which includes the reduction of plastic pollution.”

To offer a challenge to swimmers with all different body types and motivations, there are two categories in the Cold Half: Naturally Ocean and Wetsuited and Buoyant.

For more information and registration requests, contact Shu Pu at kittyp4@hotmail.com. For information and registration requests for swimmers outside of Hong Kong and China, contact Doug Woodring atdoug@oceanrecov.org.

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming