It is not often an open water swimmer starts a global movement, but Ram Barkai and his colleagues at the International Ice Swimming Association have done so.

And their efforts and inspiration, the International Ice Swimming Association was selected as the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year.

Throughout Europe and North America, from Africa to South America, swimmers are plunging in extreme cold and pushing themselves beyond what anyone thought possibly in the previous century. Recognition, standards and a community are being enabled and created by the International Ice Swimming Association.

Founded by Ram Barkai, the International Ice Swimming Association provides the rules and regulations to conduct an ice swim, structure and advice on how ice swims are safely and officially held around the world, and the impetus to test what is the most difficult short-distance open water swimming challenge in the world.

Barkai’s vision and service is motivating many to find their niche in the open water swimming world. These athletes can excel in a field where most humans could never even imagine, with the ice mile as their featured event. For that creation of specific niche, the International Ice Swimming Association recognizes and ratifies Ice Swimmers. These extreme athletes come in all shapes and sizes with the unique ability to push themselves farther and colder than other humans and scientists think possible.

But nothing is seemingly impossible for these hardened groups of extremists like Henri Karma and Alexander Brylin (shown above) and those who attempt and achieve open water swims in water temperatures under 5°C (41°F). Its standardization of rules, protocols, and procedures are helping to shape the sport of ice swimming. Its growth may someday lead to an inclusion of ice swimming in the Winter Olympics. For its emphasis on safety, for its interest in pushing the physical limits of where ice swimmers can go, for organizing the sport in a global unified manner, the International Ice Swimming Association is a worthy recipient of the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year award.

The voting for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year nominees included:

1. International Ice Swimming Association (South Africa)
2. Amphibia Sports Ring, (Ireland)
3. Swim Smooth (Australia/U.K.)
4. Global Open Water Swimming Conference (Ireland)
5. Ocean Swimming & Prone Paddleboarding for Athletes with Spinal Cord Injuries (U.S.A.)
6. Ocean-navi (Japan)
7. 21 Yaks and A Speedo (U.K.)
8. Open Water Swimming Manual: An Expert’s Survival Guide (U.S.A.)
9. Bold & Beautiful (Australia)
10. Driven (U.S.A.)
11. Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association (U.S.A.)
12. Plastic Disclosure Project (Hong Kong)
13. Ouma Academy (Tunisia)
14. FINIS Agility Paddles (U.S.A.)
15. Oru Kayak (U.S.A.)

Photo of Alexander Brylin by Nuala Moore.

For the following WOWSA Awards, visit the following links:

* 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year (Pádraig Mallon)
* 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year (Olga Kozydub)
* 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year (Bering Strait Swim)
* 2013 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year (International Ice Swimming Association)

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