Down, Down, Down To The Depths Of Cold

Down, Down, Down To The Depths Of Cold

Photos of Henri Kaarma courtesy of Nuala Moore.

Close-ups of Henri Kaarma of Estonia are most telling.

He almost looks normal diving and swimming in the water above, but these photos show the Estonian ice swimmer on his way to setting a record in swimming 2,400 meters (1.49 miles) in 0.8ºC water in 41 minutes 57:09 seconds at the Tyumen Open Water Swimming Cup in Tyumen, Russia.

But Kaarma is anything but normal. Extraordinary is only the beginning of adjectives that can describe the world’s most foremost ice swimmer.

What must be going through his mind as he leaps like a gazelle into the ice-cold water? What must be going through his mind as he swim over 2 km in water that is just above freezing?

I train mostly in the pool and 2-3 times per week in cold water, too. But I do longer swims in cold water only once per 1 or 2 weeks. I have been swimming in cold water for 6 years. But I did the first 1 km cold swim in 3 years ago. It was close to my limit then. My cold tolerance has definitely improved since then. My body ‘remembers’ previous swims and can do more next time.”

He explains how he did it in Tyumen. “In the start, I was trying not to go too fast and to stay calm despite initial feeling of cold. During the distance, I just tried to do a controlled swim, to be as economical as possible. I looked ahead after 20 strokes to check how far is the wall and which hand will touch the wall. Also, I remember overtaking Zdeněk by 50 meters for every 250 meters. Closer to the end, I noticed my stroke was getting shorter and it was hard to keep track how much have I already swum. I saw a bunch of people walking with me from one end to another and heard cheering during turns so I concluded that the distance must be pretty solid. I remember someone grabbing my hand, but I thought that it’s too early for stopping and I can swim more. 50 meters later, I thought that will do for today, climbed up the ladder and men carried me to the sauna.”

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association