Whether you were a penguin in a past life, have always wanted to re-enact the Jack and Rose moment or just generally have the urge to see what it feels like to swim in freezing cold water (well, 2 degrees), there’s no better reason to take the plunge than raising money for a good cause.
On Saturday 28th January, Tooting Bec Lido hosted the national Cold Water Swimming Championships. Every year, the event sees attendees from swimming clubs across the world come together to endure a width (or three) of the biting cold water in order to get their hit of adrenaline. With four races on the day (90m freestyle, 30m ice fly, 30m freestyle, 30m head-up breastroke), there’s no shortage of entertainment for spectators, especially when homemade hats and costumes are notably encouraged.
This year, for the first time, the Cold Water Swimming Championships partnered with Crisis for their Mid Winter Swim. This gave spectators and participants alike the chance to do something for a good cause, while also having the satisfaction of gaining some pretty serious bragging rights.
The day was due to begin with a ‘jump-in’ as part of the opening ceremony, but due to overwhelming popularity, a second jump-in was scheduled for later in the day. After registering, we were given a red Crisis swimming hat (of utmost importance in such cold temperatures, although it’s safe to say they haven’t become any more flattering since childhood), a Crisis charity wristband and a bag to put your clothes in.
Shortly before the scheduled jump-in we received a quick brief on what to expect and how to ‘survive’ the experience. In summary:
1. Keep your clothes on until the last minute possible
2. Jump in and just start swimming, if you feel strange in any way (other than the inevitable cold) signal to one of the lifeguards for help
3. Once it’s over, get warm, either with the use of the hot tubs, sauna or by wrapping up as warm as you can
I won’t pretend that fear, excitement and questioning as to why I’d ever thought this was a good idea didn’t go through my mind at various points in the build up, but I now blame that solely on fear of the unknown. With the benefit of hindsight, I would do this again in a heartbeat. In fact if I could have done it again there and then, I probably would have.
Tooting Bec Lido
Address: Tooting Bec Rd, Tooting, London SW16 1RU
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 6am-4.45pm