Cold Half, Cold Plunge, ColdXtreme Draw Hardened Swimmers In Hong Kong

Cold Half, Cold Plunge, ColdXtreme Draw Hardened Swimmers In Hong Kong

Courtesy of Natalie Kwan, Hong Kong.

The 9th edition of the 15 km Cold Half Extreme Marathon Swim and 4th edition of the 1.5 km Cold Plunge Winter Open Water Swim is this weekend. Asia’s biggest cold water marathon swim will be held on February 21st in Hong Kong and will add the ColdXtreme, a virtual triathlon challenge to the weekend racing.

Race director and co-founder Shu Pu said, “Over 40 solo and relay swimmers will compete in the 15 km course from Stanley to Deep Water Bay. The Cold Half has previously attracted competitors from around the world, but due to COVID-19, all entrants this year were from Hong Kong. The Cold Half has always been a boutique race because of the distance and low water temperatures at this time of year. This winter has been colder than usual, but many competitors are still keen to test their mental and physical strength by swimming in the “naturally ocean” (non-wetsuit) category.

The Cold Half is the only long distance, cold-water race in Asia that allows athletes from the region to do a practice run in similar conditions for marathon challenges. This year’s entrants include swimmers preparing for the English Channel crossing, and the HK360Swim.”

Alex Fong (方力申), a former Hong Kong national swimmer, competed in the naturally the 15 km Cold Half course in the naturally ocean category. Fong holds the record for the HK360 Swim, a 45 km circumnavigation around Hong Kong Island, competing the challenge in 10 hours 38 minutes in 2019.

Returning Hong Kong competitors included Alec Stuart who has competed in the Cold Half for eight consecutive years.

The Cold Half had two start times from Stanley Main Beach, and swimmers competed solo or in teams of two people, under the ‘wetsuited & buoyant’ or ‘naturally ocean’ categories. [results]

2021 was also the year of the inaugural ColdXtreme, a virtual ultra-triathlon challenge where swimmers, after completing the 15 km Cold Half race, completed a self-supported 80 km cycle and 20 km run. The goal of the ColdXtreme is to complete the challenge. The ColdXtreme was inspired by Mayank Vaid’s HK360Xtreme challenge, which consisted of the HK360Swim (45 km) around Hong Kong Island, then bike (215 km) and run (100 km) across the three regions of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories. In November 2020, Vaid completed this challenge in 70 hours. There were three men and one woman participating in the ColdXtreme this year, including Vaid.

The Cold Half and ColdXtreme were concurrently held alongside the Cold Plunge, a 1.5 km age-group time trial swim race which also includes naturally ocean and wetsuited & buoyant categories. This year’s participants were aged 14 to 65, with a very strong field of national-level swimmers.

The Cold Plunge aims to encourage the participation of the wider open water swimming community in cold water swimming. This year organizers raised funds to sponsor 20 entries to swimmers from Splash Foundation, a Hong Kong-based non-profit organization providing free learn-to-swim lessons to foreign domestic workers and underprivileged children. Funds were also raised towards Splash’s learn to swim program.  

Due to COVID-19 there were challenges to organizing the event. The race, which is traditionally held in January, was delayed by one month, and the race format was modified to ensure that the event complied with social distancing regulations. “We received many messages from veteran Cold Half swimmers in China, Europe, Australia and the United States, who wanted to, but couldn’t join this year,” said Pu. “This is the only cold swimming event in Asia that has a reputation as a top international marathon race. But it was also very satisfying to see such a strong field from our local Hong Kong community.”

The race was co-founded in 2013 by Shu Pu, Founder of AVRA and HK360Swim, and Doug Woodring, founder of Ocean Recovery Alliance, and has since become one of a primary open water races in Hong Kong.

Partners to the Cold Half, Cold Plunge and ColdXtreme include Henry Wright, a former Cold Half competitor and founder of Wright Coaching who was the Guest Race Director for 2021. Real time tracking was provided for the Cold Half and ColdXtreme challenges by Follow My Challenge Asia.  The race venue was provided by the Victoria Recreation Club.

To follow the swimmers, visit the Cold Half live tracking page here.

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Steven Munatones