Conquering Challenges, Finding Strength: New Book 'Cold Water' by Jack Hudson

Conquering Challenges, Finding Strength: New Book ‘Cold Water’ by Jack Hudson

In an article titled “Bear Meat” for The New Yorker, Italian holocaust survivor, chemist and writer, Primo Levi, recalls a tale told to him by a large man beside a little carbide lamp.

The pair were meeting for the first time in a mountain hut after an intense climb.

“These are things that make your back broad,” said the large man as he ended a tale of misadventure and readied his pipe to smoke, “I read somewhere – and the person who wrote this was not a mountaineer but a sailor – that the sea’s only gifts are harsh blows and, occasionally, the chance to feel strong…”

Anyone who saw Sean Penn’s film adaptation of the popular Jon Krakauer book Into The Wild might remember this quote. Jack London wrote something similar in The Cruise Of The Snark, recalling his own tangles with the South Pacific – “It is good to ride the tempest and feel godlike. I dare to assert that for a finite speck of pulsating jelly to feel godlike is a far more glorious feeling than for a god to feel godlike.”

The message from these quotes is simple. Hard times – tough experiences – can enable you to dredge up this deeper grit we all have, buried inside ourselves. It’s also true that if you expose yourself to discomfort, in a controlled environment, you slowly grow more used to it. Of course, we shouldn’t all start running to the nearest source of mortal danger. And yet, within reason, we can dig up some internal strength with gradual efforts, finding many natural benefits from regulated stress.

Extreme sports always invite this balancing act of bravery and trepidation. There are many that insist these pursuits are purely about ego. Yet nothing is as withering to the ego as true fear, or discomfort. It also seems to be true that nothing is tougher, starker or more gruelling to overcome as nature. The mind baulks at the eternity of space. Ocean swells make playthings of enormous freighter ships. Extreme cold causes our skin tissue to freeze, blacken and die.

In this book I’ve written, Cold Water, I explore how nature can be used as a whetstone to hone primal human attributes. In short, I dive into the recreational activity of ‘getting wintered’, embraced by ice swimmers around the world. And these are people who swim kilometres, miles, or even further, in sub-5C waters – without wetsuits.

They wear nothing but a cap, goggles and their skimpy swim suits.

Myself and my older brother also get in on the action and swim our own unratified Ice Kilometre and Ice Mile, respectively. While I spend four years on a journey from the pandemic-stricken lidos of London to the geothermal rivers and 2C bays of Iceland. Along the way, I reconnect with my semi-aquatic family, meet weathered ice swimmers (Colin Hill, Pedro Ordenes, Anna-Carin Nordin) and recount some of the most famous endurance swims, like Lewis Pugh’s minus 1.7C kilometre at the North Pole and Lynne Cox’s crossing of the Bering Strait as the Cold War thawed.

Back in 2019, roughly 7.5 million people swam regularly in cold water. More than ever before, swimmers are looking for new and exciting ways to find space, get back to nature and prioritise physical and mental wellbeing (for themselves and those closest to them). This book – a follow-up to my debut, Swim Wild (Yellow Kite Books) – offers both experiential and expert insight for those aspiring outdoor swimmers and future cold water converts. Find out how to source urban training spots, discover the best nutrition for cold swims, learn how to manage the ‘afterdrop’ and ‘deep water fear’, meet expert coaches with advice to hone your technique and plunge into the dark art of tuning your physiology through cold water immersion.

If I’ve done by job, Cold Water might even inspire some of you to embrace a little more sporting discomfort and discover how valuable it us for all of us to – at times – ‘feel strong.’

Pledge of copies of Cold Water on the award-winning Unbound platform to help make this book a reality.

Cold Water

Cold Water by Jack Hudson

It’s a simple act, ditching your clothes and steadying your breath. Before you inch down into that brutal, icy clench. Every time I do it, I go through the same internal cycle – “Why the hell am I doing this? I feel like I’m on fire. Why didn’t I stay in bed? Aw okay, here we go. Good God, that stings…”

Thoughts break out in erratic patterns. The devil on your shoulder chitters inanely. Then comes the steady revelation – “Wait, I feel… okay? Numb, maybe? Am I alright? Okay, this is less painful. Breathe now. Reach out. You’re okay.”

On each entry, a reset occurs. You’re rooted to the moment. You forget everything you carried to the water. Suddenly you’re connected to a part of yourself you don’t usually have access to. At the same time, you can’t shake the suspicion that maybe this is something our species has been doing for a very long time…

In Cold Water we follow lifelong outdoor swimmer, Jack Hudson, on a shuddering journey from the pandemic-stricken lidos of London to the geothermal rivers and 2C bays of Iceland. Along the way, Jack reconnects with his semi-aquatic family, meets weathered ice swimmers (Colin Hill, Pedro Ordenes, Anna-Carin Nordin) and recounts some of the most famous endurance swims, like Lewis Pugh’s minus 1.7C kilometre at the North Pole and Lynne Cox’s crossing of the Bering Strait as the Cold War thawed. He also explores the science of exactly what happens to our bodies when submerged into cold water. While training with his brothers for some of the toughest feats that exist in this mysterious sport: the dreaded sub-5C Ice Km and Ice Mile.

Back in 2019, roughly 7.5 million people swam regularly in open water. More than ever before, swimmers are looking for new and exciting ways to find space, get back to nature and prioritise physical and mental wellbeing (for themselves and those closest to them). This book is a diarised account of five years spent doing exactly that – a natural follow-up to Jack’s first book, Swim Wild (Yellow Kite Books). Cold Water offers both experiential and expert insight for aspiring outdoor swimmers and future cold water converts. Find out how to source urban training spots, discover the best nutrition for cold swims, learn how to manage the ‘afterdrop’ and ‘deep water fear’, meet expert coaches with advice to hone your technique and plunge into the dark art of tuning your physiology through cold water immersion.

Jack Hudson