The Why's Of Swimming In Really Cold Water

The Why’s Of Swimming In Really Cold Water

Courtesy of Janet Kylander Manning for the United States Winter Swimming Championships, Vermont.

While the British, Irish, Russians, Chinese, Slovenians, Finnish, Latvians, and South Africans have help national winter swimming events, 2015 will see the inaugural United States Winter Swimming Championships be held in Lake Memphremagog on February 21st and 22nd.

The collective brainchild of Darren Miller, Cristian Vergara, Melissa O’Reilly, Brad McVetta and Janet Manning, the concept was ushered in with the relentless efforts of Phil White.

The competitors to date include the following. Online registration for the 25m, 60m, and 100m distances remains open at and as more and more gain more confidence and experience in swimming in nearly frozen water.

*Seth Bornstein, New York
*Bethan Bosch, Vermont
*Bill Bradley, New York
*John Coningham-Rolls, UK
*Rena Marie Demeo, Maine
*Capri Djatiasmoro, New York
*John Gladstone, Massachusetts
*George Glum, New York
*Elaine Howley, Massachusetts
*Amanda Hunt, Illinois via Australia
*Aleksandr Jakovlevs, Latvia
*Mark Johnston, Montana
*Kellie Joyce, Massachusetts
*Roman Karkachev, Russia
*Kenn Lichtenwalter, New York
*Helen Lin, Massachusetts
*Brad McVetta, New York [shown above]
*Darren Miller, Pennsylvania
*Jaimie Monahan, New York
*Greg O’Connor, Massachusetts
*Elena Pavlova, New York
*Ranie Pearce, California
*Iosif Plagov, Illinois
*Lelané Rossouw-Bancroft, Delaware
*Yuta Tsuboi, New York
*Bryanna Tucker, Vermont
*Cristian Vergara, New York
*Sarah Watson, New Jersey
*Paula Yankauskas, Vermont
*Mariia Yrjö-Koskinen, Finland

The winter swimmers explained their various reasons for challenging themselves in Lake Memphremagog:

Seth Bornstein explains, “The reason of really being in the moment and I think it’s cool for a wimpy guy like myself to do something so reckless.”

Bethany Bosch explains, “It is the ultimate marvel that the human body can athletically perform in cold water. No matter what I feel about cold water beforehand, I always know in my mind that I can do this. I cannot only function, but excel. And giving my mind a change to override any fears or doubts or discomforts might be the best exercise I can get.”

Bill Bradley explains, “It is such a peaceful experience. It is unique, there are very few of us and once you experience the community of winter swimmers , you will understand what draws you back.”

John Coningham-Rolls explains, “It’s the feeling afterwards that makes you feel vital and alive. My home lido is Tooting Bec Lido in South London which is a vast open air unheated (100 yards x 30 yards) with 110 years of history that welcomes people to enjoy cold water swimming.”

Rena Marie Demeo explains, “It’s a mini challenge every day. There are times when I hate it. I can count those times on both hands, but have lost track of the many days that I love it. I can’t imagine what my life was like before ice practice.”

Capri Djatiasmoro explains, “It makes me feel good. The rush of the afterglow is what it’s all about. I like to explore the outer limits of my comfort zone and push beyond the known boundaries.”

John Gladstone explains, “I love the feeling of accomplishment I get from regularly overcoming fear. I love the way I feel so intensely focused when swimming in cold water. I love that I get to be so immersed in nature during what has always been my favorite season. I love the friends I’ve made through the sport, people from all walks of life who have all taken very different paths to end up doing this, but who have developed tremendous respect and love for one another through the shared love of winter swimming.”

George Glum explains, “Swimming in cold water puts everything in perspective.”

Elaine Howley explains, “I tolerate it because I can and there’s some great people to hang out with in the sauna afterwards.”

Amanda Hunt explains, “I’m not sure that I particularly love swimming in cold water, but I hate the pool and live in Chicago.”

Aleksandr Jakovlevs explains “I do it for hardening, mind strength, refreshing, recharging, positive emotions and the challenge.”

Mark Johnston explains, “I’ve finally found a sport that is conducive to my body shape.”

Kellie Joyce explains, “It reminds you that you’re alive. You’re aware of every part of your body as it goes number, and then again as it comes back to you. Such a unique feeling.”

Roman Karkachev explains, “I do this for the body and mind. For me, it works like a reset button on a computer. Afterwards, I enjoy a good Russian sauna with a birch brushes.”

Kenn Lichtenwalter explains, “I love the cold water for the unique challenges it presents. I am always amazed at how the human body counters the freezing temps.”

Helen Lin explains, “I enjoy the rush of feelings that follow the uncontrollable shivering signifying you live another day. Each day you somehow feel like you are cheating death.”

Darren Miller explains, “Winter swimming is a unique challenge that requires me to be mentally strong, and endure a brutal environment in the name of adventure. I love it.”

Jaimie Monahan explains, “I love the fact that winter swimming is both relatively new as a competitive sport, but at the same time rooted in so much tradition in many countries. It’s wonderful to meet so many people from around the world with this shared interest. And the feeling of well-being you get after a cold swim is incredible, so exhilarating.”

Greg O’Connor explains, “My psychiatrist tells me that it is because I am nuts, but I disagree.”

Elena Pavlova explains, “I love the ocean enough to not care about the temperature. Cold water is the best medicine, but it has to be taken before you get sick.”

Ranie Pearce explains, “I am not sure that I love it, but I love the people who do it. It is a very close-knit intense family of athletes. I have met wonderful people from all over the world since I began winter swimming. I guess it’s the adrenalin and the extreme aspect of the sport that makes the experience so very intense. I am excited to help introduce it to the United States.”

Iosif Plagov explains, “I do it for the fun and challenge.”

Lelané Rossouw-Bancroft explains, “I still don’t really have an answer, perhaps because it’s simply what I do.”

Yuta Tsuboi explains, “I really enjoy the physical and mental jolt.”

Bryanna Tucker explains, “It puts things in perspective for me. If I feel cold walking down the beach to the water, I soon learn that I’m not cold at all. Being in the water is what’s cold. Then I come out of the water, feel the power of the sun, and my perspective of the beach has shifted. It’s a powerful thing to do once a week in the cold winter’s months.”

Cristian Vergara explains, “Not only is it good to boost your immune system and give you a sense of well-being, but it has taken me to places I’ve never dreamed of going. It has opened a whole other swim sport I knew nothing about and never thought I’d enjoy so much. The camaraderie among cold water swimmers is the highest I’ve ever experienced. It’s such an intensive and extreme branch of the sport of swimming that it’s almost a drug.”

Sarah Watson explains, “I enjoy the adrenaline rush afterward as well as the feeling of the chill. Yes, it hurts at times, but I love learning about my body’s reactions and interpretations of pain and cold. I also adore experiencing the water when it is so clear and blue. The experience can be ethereal and intoxicating.”

Paula Yankauskas explains, “Immersing oneself in cold waer is somewhat shocking, uncomfortable enough to be painful, and dangerous. Not many people choose to do this thing, and of those, I personally recognize among them several genuine, inspiring swimmers. After the pain, I am infused with an addictive feeling of well-being. For me, facing a tough moment without hesitation has been instructive to everyday life. Getting through such a challenge has its rewards. This feeling of well-being is very, very powerful.”

Mariia Yrjö-Koskinen explains, “It give me good mental and physical health and positive energy. Winter swimming is a great big family, an amazing worldwide network with fantastic personalities, and is the best natural endorphin from nature.”

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones