From Russia with Love:

Who would voluntarily undertake a one-way Aeroflot flight via Moscow to Siberia let alone get undressed and swim in icy waters with monthly air in November that dropped to -27’C…?

Now I mean not just dip in like on New Year’s Eve or at a Baptist ceremony- no, what I am saying is equipped with no more than your regular pool bathing suit, cap and goggles, you swim 25, 50, 200, 450 metres and 25m relays surrounded by ice that grows 7cm overnight (only two such nights and the Dutch skate THE famous and notorious Elfstedentocht!) This ice forms so quickly that it needs constant agitating and the whole setting of this event is in a serene virgin white landscape that stretches for miles….and miles…

Representatives from all continents boarded de-iced planes (of orange colour!), to spend the same night dipping in private waters with saunas and great hospitality, followed by days of competitions all hosted in an Olympic sports center dedicated to the best of Russian athletes.

With helpful supplies of Merino wool clothing, windbreakers, thermal underwear and cosy fires, the additional delights of saunas and hot spring swimming were nothing when compared with true Siberian warmth and welcome.  Combine this with excellent organizational talent and with effortless ease all the cultures merged to allow everyone to help each other.  With the complete absence of books, internet and any other modern media, nothing could touch your senses so comprehensively and on top of that …increase your immune system!

The honour of this invitation (Bolstoje Spasiba!) introduced me to a crowd that had swam the Bering Sea under breath-taking military support, athletes that swim so fast that if there were to be a ceiling above the Tura river, it would have been soaked by the fountains they produce!  Swimmers who persevered for 28 hours to swim the English channel and a six-year old child who wanted to start as early as possible….  Small wonder that much effort been put into the award ceremony where tradition and modern shows were smoothly integrated.

If this was going to be a one way trip…staying would be voluntary… so start now and join in this global family and I’ll prove to you that open water swimming is the thing to do and that the International Winter Swimming Association (IWSA) is a great club to join and most of all that Alexi, his family and team made this trip a letter entitled “From Russia With Love!”