Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Ram Barkai spoke about the First Ice Swimming World Championships that will be held in Murmansk, Russia in March 2015 as well as his newly structured International Ice Swimming Association at the 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference in Isle of Bute, Scotland.

We are still learning a lot about ice swimming,” explained the hardened South African from Cape Town. “There is a huge amount of knowledge that was discovered and shared – including many mistakes that were made – in open water swimming over the last 100 years. But in our case, the learning curve is steep because we are swimming in ice. This is why our events have doctors. Once we find out information, we like to share that information as quickly and as much as possible with the ice swimming community.”

Barkai’s platform to spread the information on a global basis is the International Ice Swimming Association that was recognized as the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year.

On our newly designed website (www.internationaliceswimming.com), we have tried to automate the entire process from registration to ratification of people’s ice swim. Swimmers can upload all the videos, reports and information. The observers and witnesses can verify all the details, and then an email is sent to International Ice Swimming Association where the swim will be certified anywhere in the world.”

Barkai and his ice swimming colleagues not only worked on the ease of sharing information online as a means to streamline and ease the registration and ratification process, but the new online property is reaching out to expand the ice swimming community.

In order to expand, we have 3 levels of membership now: warm members, cold members, and ice members. Warm Members are individuals who are interested in what we do or who want to support the International Ice Swimming Association. Cold Members are swimmers who have done a 1 km swim in water lower than 5°C. Ice Memberss are swimmers who have accomplished an Ice Mile.”

Barkai, who created the non-profit organisation, is not charging any membership fees. “I want the International Ice Swimming Association to be an open community and enable us to learn from each other.

All members receive their own pages. They get their own bio page where they can post their videos and upload their photos, Openwaterpedia links, and information including their swims. This allows the International Ice Swimming Association and the community to be able to look at the swimmers’ bio page so we can research their credentials and then we can support the swim.”

The reason to expand and include Warm Members and Cold Members is simple. “We have realized that a one-mile swim is long and is not a personal achievement for everyone. A 1 km swim is a short enough time in the water, only 15-20 minutes; this can be safe enough.

At the 2015 Ice Swimming Championships, we will have 20 events: 10 for men and 10 for women. We will have 31 ambulances on stand by and have prepared a dedicated intensive care unit at the venue. But we want and encourage all swimmers in every event to be able walk out of the water by themselves. They need to have enough mentally and physically to be able to stop themselves and get out of the water by themselves.”

Photo of Pádraig Mallon (left) and Ram Barkai (right) at the International Swimming Hall of Fame and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on the Isle of Bute, Scotland.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association