Chilling Thrills and Warm Spirits: Highlights from the 10th Annual Lake Memphremagog Winter Swimming Festival

Chilling Thrills and Warm Spirits: Highlights from the 10th Annual Lake Memphremagog Winter Swimming Festival

The 10th Annual Lake Memphremagog Winter Swimming Festival in Newport, Vermont, became the meeting point for over 160 participants keen on braving the icy waters of a frozen lake. The event stretched over four days, with swimmers taking on various races in 25-meter lanes carved out of the ice. Despite the cold, with temperatures dropping to 10°F (-12.2°C), the atmosphere buzzed with enthusiasm and a sense of unity.

The post-swim gatherings at the East Side Restaurant & Pub offered a warm contrast, where stories and laughter filled the air.  In between potato guns, pajama parties, good food and flowing drinks, there was a swim meet in a two lane pool carved in the frozen lake.

Among the highlights was the “Hat Competition,” where creativity met cold endurance and showcased custom-designed headgear.

Solo Division

This hat represents the dance of the deer, which is an indigenous dance from northern Mexico. The deer is regarded as a guide, to help us find our own way in this life. In my case, it helped me to navigate freezing waters

Martha Wood shared:

We all have people who help us, and this year’s hat was a tribute to Memphremagog Winter Swim Society and how it has helped me make my way in the world. The round diorama’s depiction of my swimming life includes a central an origami-like faceted whale tail that I cut, folded and glued together from light blue cardstock. When mounted on top of my aqua-blue yarn mermaid wig, the tail transformed into my mermaid tail. Likewise, my personal transformation into an open water and ice swimmer was powered by the saying on the swim festival’s credo printed on a patch mounted in front of the tail reading: “No Lanes No Lines No Limits.” The hat is surrounded by fringe like circle of dangling a woodless, each won in a year I competed in the festival. The rest of the hat is a nod to last summer’s swim of Catalina Channel: A shark, depicting the shark seen off of Ed Horne’s boat as he swam the channel on the same night. A duckling wearing a crown, on the surface depicts the triple crown I earned by swimming the channel, but in truth is Elaine Howley, our “mother duck,” who crewed for me and two other Boston swimmers in the same week. The dragonfly that I wove out of copper and brass wire flies out to the front of the hat representing the mystical scarab beetle/dragonfly that appeared in my mind as I swam, showing me the way and encouraging me to lengthen my stroke and leading me to the other side.

Participants ranged from seasoned cold water swimmers to newcomers seeking physical and mental benefits. Tom Heyerdahl of Ottawa, for example, turned to cold water swimming to navigate personal challenges. Despite considering himself neither fast nor skilled in swimming, Heyerdahl appreciates the balance it brings to his life.

Kirsten Kramer

Kirsten Kramer, of Brooklyn, NY, who was a Special Solo Category Honorary Winner, broke all the rules by putting her head in the water during her artistic swimming routine. But she was honored anyway, and there are rumors of a future artistic swimming category. 

Commenting on the inspiration for her swim, Kirsten said,

“Growing up in competitive sports, I learned very early the unwritten/unspoken underlying message I wasn’t good enough unless I was the best… and that message almost destroyed me. It took a really long time and a lot of pain and self-destruction, but I have learned that I can just show up each day as my best self and that’s enough. I’m not the best artistic swimmer, or the best winter swimmer… but I put together these two sports that I love so much and I did a thing that I never thought I could do… and that’s enough for me I’m soooooo so so so so grateful to my CIBBOWS community, my Team New York Aquatics synchro teammates, my amazing coach @vk_orlovska , and all of my wonderful people for loving and supporting and cheering me on! Thank you!!! I love you all!”

Our very own WOWSA CEO also attended the event and remarked:

“Surrounded by a sea of flopping parkas and grinning faces, it was clear: I was home. Embraced by a large loving family and free to be myself. The event was pure joy.”

Phil White’s idea a decade ago to swim in the hole left by an ice maze has evolved into a globally recognized event. This blend of challenge and community attracts swimmers from around the world, eager to test their limits and enjoy the camaraderie that this unique event fosters.

In the post-event wrap up email to all participants, signed by “Phil and The Clubhouse Gangstas,” the parting message was clear: “thanks for bringing your great good spirits and your raucous roar to Lake Memphremagog this past weekend. TOTALLY COLD.”

Photo Credit: Pauline Farmer

Hat Competition

All Hat Competition results


SoloMartha WoodF60ManchesterUSA
SoloJoanne BarkerF59SomervilleUSA
SoloAnna Valeria Zuccolotto SotoF38La Paz BCSMX


Memphre175Margaret RivardF16DerbyVTUSA
176Vera RivardF19DerbyVTUSA
Golden Gate Bridge26Suzie DodsF63San RafaelCAUSA
29Pia HinckleF58San FranciscoCAUSA
30Kristin HutchinsF57San FranciscoCAUSA
31Elaine Van VleckF58San FranciscoCAUSA
Santa and his Reindeers77Sue FaibischF54New MarketMDUSA
79Chuck FlayhartM56New MarketMDUSA
82Susan HinegardnerF55FrederickMDUSA
83Lisa KokesF64Washington GroveMDUSA
84Janet ManningF60FrederickMDUSA
86LaVerne Miers-BondF62Mount AiryMDUSA

25 Meters Free

All 25 Free results


113.77Steven RouchM43KingstonPAUSA
213.86Ford CurrieM38WYNDMOORPAUSA
315.59Chris BallardM49BERKELEYCAUSA


115.07Stephanie KorsF30BaltimoreMDUSA
216.70Emery DuttonF23CambridgeMAUSA
316.75Susan McKayF45OttawaONCAN

25 Meter Breast

All 25 Meter Breast results


119.08Andrew WallaceM58Ocean GroveNJUSA
219.28Julian FlearM58New YorkNYUSA
321.00Mark MillekerM60Severna ParkMDUSA


115.07Stephanie KorsF30BaltimoreMDUSA
216.70Emery DuttonF23CambridgeMAUSA
316.75Susan McKayF45OttawaONCAN

25 Meter Fly

All 25 Meter Fly results


116.82Kent LassmanM48AlexandriaVAUSA
217.10Brian JaskotM44ViennaVAUSA
318.29Jeff RubinM60MadisonCTUSA


116.63Susan McKayF45OttawaONCAN
216.87Qing LiF34ChicagoILCAN
318.29isabella gerardiF19seekonkMACAN

Non Binary

118.38Medea Ramnath-ChristiansenNB32New YorkNYUSA
223.10Sam LevinsonNB36BeavertonORUSA

50 Meter Free

All 50 Meter free results


130.24Quinn FitzgeraldM40San FranciscoCAUSA
230.77Stephen RouchM43KingstonPAUSA


131.12Amy MeskillF32KillingworthCTUSA
234.71Stephanie KorsF30BaltimoreMDUSA
335.42Susan McKayF45OttawaONCAN

Non Binary

142.89Medea Ramnath-ChristiansenNB32New YorkNYUSA
245.28Sam LevinsonF36BeavertonORUSA
350.48Isabella VillanoT/T16Falls ChurchVAUSA


148.89Chance KrempaskyTM40BrooklynNYUSA


148.79Rena DemeoF54NahantMAUSA

100 Meter Free

View all 100 Meter Free results


11:13.93Amy MeskillF32KillingworthCTUSA
21:16.54Juliet KadlecekF54New YorkNYUSA
31:17.31Susan McKayF45OttawaONCAN


11:06.72Stephen RouchM43KingstonPAUSA
21:11.93Christopher GraefeM49Jamaica PlainMAUSA
31:13.92Alessio RimoldiM28ArlingtonVAUSA

200 Meter Free

All 200 Meter Free results


12:49.99Juliet KadlecekF54New YorkNYUSA
22:52.26Amy MeskillF32KillingworthCTUSA
32:54.72Qing LiF34ChicagoILUSA


12:27.34Stephen RouchM43KingstonPAUSA
22:46.24Brian JaskotM44ViennaVAUSA
32:47.62Frederik MassonM39Trois-RivièresQCCAN

View the rest of the results

Early registration is open for the 11th annual Memphremagog Winter Swimming Festival here

Main Photo: Heather Ryan