Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Winter swimmers from around the world will descend on Lake Memphremagog in Vermont for the inaugural United States Winter Swimming Championships in February.

Event director Phil White reports, “Work begins in earnest this week to prepare for the inaugural championships on February 21st and 22nd. Winter swimmers from around the nation and around the world have already begun to make plans to travel to Newport, Vermont for the 25, 50, and 100 meter championship swims. 25 swimmers have registered or committed to compete in in a 25m two-lane pool to be cut in the ice on Lake Memphremagog near The EastSide Restaurant in Newport, Vermont.

For local novices, we will offer a charity plunge (a quick in-and-out of the pool) on Friday, February 20th to raise money for Jess Sicotte, a Derby Elementary School teacher battling cancer and to give our local residents an opportunity to experience what winter swimming is all about
.”

NThe ewport Parks and Recreation Department will cut and prepare the wood-lined pool in the lake on January 23rd and 24th.

Entrants to date include:

1. Bethany Bosch from Wallingford, Vermont, USA
2. Capri Djatiasmoro from Brooklyn, New York, USA
3. Jonathan Gladstone from Somerville, Massachusetts, USA
4. Elaine Howley from Waltham, Massachusetts, USA
5. Mark Johnston from Polson, Montana, USA
6. Kellie Joyce from Norwood, Massachusetts, USA
7. Kenn Lichtenwalter from New York, New York, USA
8. Helen Lin from Quincy, Massachusetts, USA
9. Jaimie Monahan from New York, New York, USA [shown above]
10. Greg O’Connor from Natick, Massachusetts, USA
11. Elena Pavlova from Brooklyn, New York, USA
12. Iosif Plagov from Chicago, Illinois, USA
13. Lelané Rossouw-Bancroft from Newark, Delaware, USA
14. Yuta Tsuboi from New York, New York, USA
15. Raul Vergara from Brooklyn, New York and Chile
16. Paula Yankauskas from Hyde Park, Vermont, USA
17. Brad McVetta from New York, New York, USA
18. Ranie Pearce from Orinda, California, USA
19. Sarah Watson from Highland Park, New Jersey, USA
20. Melissa Mo O’Reilly from Prague, Czech Republic
21. Roman Karkachev from Moscow, Russia
22. Aleksandr Jakovlev from Latvia
23. Darren Miller from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
24. Rena Marie Demeo from Chelsea, Massachusetts, USA
25. Mariia Yrjö-Koskinen from Finland
26. James Haynes from Lynn, Massachusetts, USA

The athletes explain why they enjoy winter swimming.

Bethany Bosch says, “It is the ultimate marvel that the human body can athletically perform in cold water. No matter what I feel about cold water beforehand, I always know in my mind that I can do this. I can not only function, but excel. And giving my mind a chance to override any fears or doubts or discomforts might be the best exercise I can get.”

Capri Djatiasmoro says, “It makes me feel good. The rush of the afterglow is what it’s all about. I like to explore the outer limits of my comfort zone and push beyond the known boundaries.”

Jonathan Gladstone says, “I love the feeling of accomplishment I get from regularly overcoming fear. I love the way I feel so intensely focused when swimming in cold water. I love that I get to be so immersed in nature during what has always been my favorite season. I love the friends I’ve made through the sport – people from all walks of life who have all taken very different paths to end up doing this, but who have developed tremendous respect and love for one another through the shared love of winter swimming.”

Elaine Howley says, “Who said I love it? I tolerate it because I can and there’s some great people to hang out with in the sauna afterwards.”

Mark Johnston says, “I’ve finally found a sport that is conducive to my body shape.”

Kellie Joyce says, “It reminds you that you’re alive…You’re aware of every part of your body as it goes numb, and then again as it comes back to you. Such a unique feeling.”

Kenn Lichtenwalter says, “I love the cold water for the unique challenges it presents. I am always amazed at how the human body counters the freezing temps.”

Helen Lin says, “I enjoy the rush of feelings that follow the uncontrollable shivering signifying you live another day. Each day you somehow feel like you are cheating death.”

Jaimie Monahan [shown above] says, “I love the fact that winter swimming is both relatively new as a competitive sport but at the same time rooted in so much tradition in many countries. It’s wonderful to meet so many people from around the world with this shared interest. And the feeling of well-being you get after a cold swim is incredible – so exhilarating.”

Greg O’Connor says, “My psychiatrist tells me that it is because I am nuts, but I disagree.”

Iosif Plagov says, “For the fun and challenge.”

Cristian Vergara says, “Not only is it good to boost your immune system and give you a sense of well-being, but is has taken me to places I’ve never dreamed of going. It has opened a whole other swim sport I knew nothing about and never thought I’d enjoy so much. The camaraderie among cold water swimmers is the highest I’ve ever experienced. It’s such an intensive and extreme branch of the sport of swimming that it’s almost as a drug.”

Paula Yankauskas says, “Immersing oneself in cold water is somewhat shocking, uncomfortable enough to be painful, and dangerous. Not many people choose to do this thing, and of those, I personally recognize among them several genuine, inspiring swimmers. After the pain, I am infused with an addictive feeling of well-being. For me, facing a tough moment without hesitation has been instructive to everyday life; and, getting through such a challenge has its rewards. This feeling of “well-being” is very, very powerful.”

Ranie Pearce says, “I am not sure that I love it, but I love the people who do it. It is a very close knit intense family of athletes. I have met wonderful people from all over the world since I began winter swimming. I guess it’s the adrenalin and the extreme aspect of the sport that makes the experience so very intense. I am excited to help introduce it to the US.”

Sarah Watson says, “I enjoy the adrenaline rush afterward as well as the feeling of the chill. Yes it hurts at times, but I love learning about my body’s reactions and interpretations of pain, cold, and hypothermia.”

Roman Karkachev says, “I do this for body and mind. For me, it works like a reset button on a computer. Afterwards, I enjoy a good Russian sauna with birch brushes.”

Darren Miller says, “Winter swimming is a unique challenge that requires me to be mentally strong, and endure a brutal environment in the name of adventure. I love it.”

Rena Marie Demeo says, “It’s a mini challenge every day. There are times when I hate it. I can count those times on both hands, but have lost track of the many days that I love it. I can’t imagine my what life was like before ice practice.”

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association