Winter swimming is any form of swimming that would be extreme in terms of distance, water temperature or water conditions done in winter. It can be performed in a body of water with a frozen crust of ice, or under the hot tropical sun.
Winter swimming may be synonymous with Extreme swimming or Avantouinti or Ice swimming in colder countries. This requires either breaking the ice or entering where a spring keeps the water from freezing over. This may also be simulated by a pool of water at 0°C, the temperature at which water freezes. Ice swimmers typically dip their heads below the surface to ensure that they are completely wet, whether or not the water is over their heads. They usually do not swim beneath the ice, as it is easy to get disoriented when turning around and not be able to find one's way back to the hole. Some ice swimmers avoid this problem by swimming from one hole to another, or by swimming under the ice while tethered to the shore.
In Finland, Northern Russia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, the winter swimming tradition has been connected with the sauna tradition.
Famous locations include the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, London.
In Harbin, northern China, many ice swim in the Songhua River.
There are strong traditions for ice swimming and dousing with cold water in Russia. They are done for health benefits, as a ritual of the Orthodox Church for the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, and for sports. Such club members are called "walruses" (Russian: моржи) instead of "polar bears".
The members of Canadian and American Polar Bear Clubs go outdoor bathing or swimming in the middle of winter. In some areas it is unusual or ceremonial enough to attract press coverage. Polar Bear Swims are conducted as fund-raisers for charity, notably the Special Olympics.
The oldest ice swimming club in the United States is the Coney Island Polar Bear Club of Coney Island, New York, who hold an annual polar plunge on New Year's Day as well as regular swims every Sunday from November to April.
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Winter Swimming Championships
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