Over 670 swimmers, representing 21 countries took part in the world’s only international winter swimming championships, at Tooting Bec Lido in London this weekend. Conceived by the International Winter Swimming Association and Suomen Latu from Finland, this sixth biannual event was the first to be held outside Finland, but still had a very big Finnish presence. Around 300 swimmers travelled to the UK along with a special sauna and a hot tub imported especially for the championship.
The championship is less about speed and more about coping with the cold, so to give amateurs a chance against the elite, and to retain more heat in the body ‘head up breaststroke’ is the stroke competitors have to use. While the weather couldn’t have felt more summery out of the water, icebergs and a chilly water temperature of just 6 degrees meant that many competitors saw fit to wear wooly hats, or ducks, to keep warm for the 25 meter swim.
I can’t begin to dispute the claim that cold water swimming gives you the ultimate high, making you feel invigorated, even good for your health.. I wasn’t about to try, rather sample the speciality ales brewed specially for the championships.. Blue Tits, Brass Monkeys and Chilly Willy. Now they were refreshing!