Swimmers from around the world congregated at Tooting Bec Lido in south London on Saturday for the UK Cold Water Swimming Championships. Glam rockers, sea creatures and superheroes swam, shivered and frolicked in the 3.5 degree water in a variety of races.
“Shoulders under the water!” It sounds easy, but when the water is 3.5 degrees clinging to a metal pool rail while making sure you are not disqualified is a challenge in itself. This was not your average swimming gala.
Fancy dress is encouraged and costumes were out in force. That is not to say there wasn’t some serious swimming – competition was fierce at times.
Post-race, swimmers warmed up in hot tubs and sipped hot Ribena before heading to the traditional Finnish sauna, a gift from Finland’s winter swimmers for the Winter Swimming World Championships held at Tooting in 2008.
The Championships are organised by South London Swimming Club every two years and over 180 volunteers ensured the day went like clockwork – timekeeping, herding swimmers, selling cakes (the traditional fuel of winter swimming) and even building a mermaid that floated serenely in the pool for the duration of the contest.
Most fiercely contested was the homemade hat competition. Entries included octopuses, galleons and narwhals.
The whole day was a giddy carnival of cold water fun – madcap and creative with a healthy dose of competition. Roll on 2021!