I was planning the details of my story “Lapland Adventure” when, coincidentally, I knew that the World Winter Swimming Championships would take place in Rovaniemi, capital of Finnish Lapland, where I planned to spend a few days of the mentioned project.

Winter Swimming World Championships 2014 in Rovaniemi, Finland

As a sports enthusiast in general, and particularly of those disciplines that require precise control of the mind and considerable resistance from the body, I was happy to dedicate the last days of my stay in Finland to photograph this event and meet, in short distance, those human beings who spent part of their precious time in the arduous task of swimming in icy waters. In this case, athletes would gather in the main international competition of this kind, in a pool created for that need in the icy waters of the frozen River Kemi, near the Arctic Circle.

More than 1,200 courageous athletes of all ages

Although the logic leads us to believe that this is a minority sport, the fact is that during the edition that took place in Rovaniemi, over 1,200 swimmers from 35 countries were registered at the event to try to beat their marks and get a place among the winners.

Winter Swimming World Championships 2014 in Rovaniemi, Finland

From what I could see, athletes covered a wide range of ages, all ready to fight hypothermia in races that went from the 450 meters, in the hard Endurance Series, to the fast distances of 25 to 50 metres, in breaststroke and freestyle modalities. For the endurance race, a medical certificate was required, in order to prove that the athlete was able to withstand that kind of physical prowess, in days when the water temperature was about + 1 ° C and the air´s was among -3 ° C and -15 ° C, approximately.

A sport not suitable for anyone

As you can tell from the pictures in this article, swimming in icy water is not suitable for everyone and requires, given the extreme conditions, a specific training and a high level of preparedness. However, no competitor is exempt from suffering a mishap, as in the case of a swimmer who was urgently taken to the hospital, during this edition, for heart failure during the race.

Despite the difficulties inherent in the discipline, a good number of followers meet every year in the corresponding World Championship, sharing the icy conditions with a sense of humor, judging by the unique catwalk offered by the combination of winter clothes, colourful robes and hats of all types and condition. If you decide to participate, you should start your training soon, as the edition of Winter Swimming World Championships 2016 will take place between the 8th and 12th of March, in the Russian city of Tyumen.

Text & Photos © Nano Calvo

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