When I found my way to the wintery waters in 2008 I felt like I had arrived in the world. No exhaggeration I experienced a feeling of well being and closeness to nature that I still find hard to describe.
Autumn was closing in and it seemed that I would be confined to the pool when I met Tomas Prokop, a Prague lawyer and president of the winter swimming club 1.PKO. On telling me of a cave swim and the impending winter swimming seasson I was instantly fascinated although I declined his immediate offer to visit the club as I didn’t feel ready. I was a regular summer swimmer in open water and visitor to the swimming pool but the prospect of turning up at a winter swimming club unprepared was not something I was about to entertain. Luckily the pool I was swimming in had an outside unheated pool so I started training in this. After 8 weeks it was mid december and I was swimming 800m in the pool. I felt ready to try winter swimming and attended a training session.
As I left the club house shivering I was also giggling as I got a real kick out of the swim and felt physcially and mentally better than I had for some time. That first season was interesteing and I will always remember my second race in the partially frozen Bolevak pond near Plzen in the west of the Czech Republic. The water was 1.5c and I was limited by the rules to the 250m distance. At this point I will say that for a new winter swimmer, who has a little experience with water ofa round 4c the drop to 1.5c is quite something. I set off quite quickly but after 70m I seemed to just freeze, I swallowed a bit of water, I was on the ropes and somewhere in front of me I could see the safety boat, at that split I couldn’t move and a voice inside me said „ok, help, get me on that boat I am not a winter swimmer.“ Then another voice said „get on with it and get the job done“ Needles to say I chose the latter option without question. This happenend in a split second but I remeber it vividly. I made it to the finish and back in the changing rooms I felt an incredible pain in my hands that I hadn’t felt since I was a 10 year old boy doing Rugby drills on a freezing Sunday morning when my hands turned blue and at the end of the training session myself and the other boys ran back to the changing rooms crying.
Back to the swimming and after a short recovery I was elated that I had managed to swim 250m in 1.5c water. Later that day I told many people about it as I was proud but also a little amazed at my achievement. I think this is another example of the power that extremely cold water wields. Little did I know that just over a year later I would be able to swim 1km in 0.8c water!
This first season of winter swimming was an eye opener for me and I reccommended it to anyone. We can all be winter swimmers if we have a healthy heart and the will to do it. Step by step is the best way, respect your body and respect nature.
As that first season ened and thoughts turned to summer activities and longer, warmer swims it suddenly hit me that I should revist one of the dreams of my teens and become a film maker. Almost 3 years after the initial idea and I released „winter swimming“ the film, an almost completely independent production. I funded 50% of the production from my own pocket and the rest came through crowdfunding along with a donation from the swimming club invloved.
In the 29 minute film we get a good overview of a season of winter swimming in the Czech Republic, complete with training, races and even a wedding in icy cold water. The swimmers speak about why they do it and the health benefits and there is a lot of information conveyed through the images combined with the voice over.
Anyone interested in open water swimming, nature or endurance sports willl surely find this fascinating viewing. It is slowly doing the rounds in festivals and will premier in the UK at http://www.shaff.co.uk/ in March.
If you can’t wait for that the DVD is available through my blog www.extremewinterswimming.com