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Saturday, February 6, 2016

What Happens In A Winter Swimming Championship

Courtesy of WOWSA at the Big Chill Swim Winter Swimming Gala in Windermere, England.

The sights and sounds, the swimmers and the safety, the equipment and the venue are dramatically different than other open water swims. Winter swimming and ice swimming are like no other niche in the open water swimming world.

At first impression, the biggest difference is that everything feels and looks cold.

The second impression is the vast dichotomy between the clothing, footwear and headwear of the swimmers and the race volunteers and staff.

The third impression is why do the cold water swimmers look up so often in a rectangular pool venue with lane lines?

The inky blackness of the water - an undoubtable confirmation of the 6.4ºC (43.5ºF) water temperature - and the inability to see anything below you like lane lines or the cross indicating the end of the pool - is the very reason.

Ladders are used to get in and out of the water; no traditional racing starts from diving blocks or pontoons or platforms are allowed in winter swimming and ice swimming races. All races start from a push off the wall or pontoons.

There are no flip (tumble) turns in the very coldest open water swimming evens; only open turns are allowed in these winter swimming and ice swimming races.

Like open water swimming everywhere, the volunteers and staff are serious and professional, but the swimmers have loads of fun based on mutual respect and heartfelt camaraderie that crosses age ranges, walks of life, and backgrounds.

There is order, discipline and meticulous planning that goes into the winter/ice swimming events. If a heat is scheduled to start at 10:57 am, it starts at 10:57 am. The athletes are in the final call room on time and respectful of their peers so the schedule is strictly followed.

The community has an increasing number of events around the world and an increasing number of products and services catering to the needs and desires of winter and ice swimmers.

The community has its share of heroes and heroines of every age and background (from Roger Allsopp and Lewis Pugh to Jackie Cobell and Jaimie Monahan.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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