We watch the ice swimmers of all ages and athletic background, but we still do not know how they do it. But they do in increasing numbers.

The Pirita Open is a ice swimming festival held in the Pirita river in Tallinn, Estonia.

With air temperatures and water temperatures down below freezing, the timing is perfect.

The weather forecast is quite promising: -10ºC to -20ºC with little snow and some sunshine over the next few weeks which will insure the winter will last at least until the end of February. This is exactly what we need,” explains Viimsi Veeklubi.

The general rules for participants in the Pirita Open ice swimming competition are as follows:

1. Men must swim in swimming trunks; women in 1 or 2 piece swimsuits. Swimming costumes may not go beyond the middle of the thigh or past the shoulder (i.e., they may not have legs or sleeves). Swimming trunks may not go beyond waistline. Swimming costumes shall not have thermal protection or buoyancy.

2. Swimmers may not use any device or material, which is designed to improve performance (including hand paddles, snorkels, fins, or floatation devices).

3. Swimmers must wear something on their head; either a swimming cap or a woolen or other warm hat. Swimmers may wear goggles. With the exception of a hat, swimmers may not wear any additional clothing (e.g. gloves or neoprene socks) or wetsuits of any description, whether made of neoprene or any other material.

4. Diving into the water is not permitted.

5. Participants of the next heats are announced near the entrance to the ice. Start lists are also available in festival area for everybody to see. Swimmers can dress before and after the start in the dressing tent. It is preferable that swimmers go to the start wearing footwear and clothes which can be removed quickly.

6. Swimmers in dressing tent will be notified when it’s their time to go to the start.

7. At the start, competitors will be instructed to disrobe: “Riietuge lahti / Take off your clothes.” Baskets will be provided for each lane and competitors should put all their clothing and bags into them. They will then be carried around to the other end of the lane, ready for the competitor to pick up his or her clothes when he or she has finished the race.

8. When all competitors are disrobed, they are instructed to enter the water: “Vette / In the water“ and competitors using ladders descend in the water so that shoulders are under the water.

9. Competitors will then be instructed to get on their marks: “Valmis olla / On your marks“, whereby competitors must visible hold the steps with one hand.

10. Start will be given with audio signal.

11. False starts will not be called back. Blatant false starts will result in disqualification. Minor false starts will result in a five second penalty being added onto the race time.

12. Swimmers cannot dive under the water after the starting push.

13. To finish, each competitor must touch the end of his or her lane with at least one hand.

14. The only permissible stroke of 25m breaststroke races is head-up breaststroke. The crown of the head may not be submerged at any time.

15. In relays, the swimmers 2-4 must wait in the water and can leave after the previous swimmer has touched the wall at the end of the swimming lane. Blatant false starts will result in disqualification. Every minor false start will result in a five-second penalty being added onto the race time.

16. There must be at least one woman and one man in each team in order to participate in competitive relay event. Teams of 4 men or 4 women may swim but they are not included in overall ranking and will not get medals.

17. The distance of endurance swim is expected to be 450m. The distance can be changed according to the decision of organizers.

18. Tumble turns are not permitted in endurance swim. In order to turn, swimmer touches the wall with at least one hand and pushes off the wall as in the start of the race.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association