Polar bears. Such beautiful, elegant swimmers, marveled for their effortless ways of gliding through the icy, threatening waters of the deep blue arctic ocean…looks easy, doesn’t it?
Well, for those of you who are rather partial to the odd ice bath, why not give those bears a run for their money and have a go for real?
Finland’s capital, Helsinki is the home to the rather chilly sport of ice swimming. Ice swimming involves dipping yourself into water over which there is a frozen crust of ice which you have to either break before entering, or slide in where a spring keeps the water from freezing over. Many regular swimmers (or very brave swimmers!) dip their heads under the water to ensure that they are completely wet as well as their full bodies. Due to the thick ice, many merely tread water or circle the larger pools instead of running the risk of disorientation and not being able to find the hole again. Those more experienced swimmers are often seen going from hole to hole so as to avoid losing their way under the ice or by staying tethered to shore.
With the sport growing in popularity over the years, both tourists and locals in numbers of up to 120,000) are taking the plunge for a number of reasons.
The cold water is believed to ease the pain of Rheumatism and arthritis. Interestingly, many have been known to say that a dip a day keeps colds and flu at bay!
Others use the sudden plummet in temperature as shock therapy to their central nervous system.
Researchers have even found that enveloping yourself in such low temperatures produces a positive psychological effect and can prevent depression!
Obviously, ice swimming isn’t the safest of sports and so it is recommended that you stick to well-managed sites run by companies such as The Finnish Skiing Association and The Finnish Sauna Society who are nice enough to even provide saunas so as the ease the transition into the icy depths!
So, instead of merely sledging this winter, make a splash in Helsinki. They say it’s brrrrr-illiant!