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Superheroes, glam rockers and 3.5 degree water: UK Cold Water Swimming Championships

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.

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Simon, Alice, Jo and Jonathan from Outdoor Swimmer were resplendent in Zoggs Batman costumes

“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.

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Ice swimmer Pauline Barker fielded a team of glam rockers – complete with platform heels!

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.

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Marathon swimmer Ellery McGowan on her way to winning a haul of medals

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.

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Hot tub action

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.

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Hattie the mermaid was made out of recycled swimming hats

Most fiercely contested was the homemade hat competition. Entries included octopuses, galleons and narwhals.

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Swimmer Zoe Podmore crafted a huge octopus to wear on her head

The whole day was a giddy carnival of cold water fun – madcap and creative with a healthy dose of competition. Roll on 2021!

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Outdoor Swimmer contributing editor Ella Foote and writer Rowan Clarke joined a Deakin & Blue team wearing hats made from beach waste

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Jonathan is a year-round skins swimmer with a particular love of very cold water. He has competed in ice swimming competitions around the world. He is a qualified open water coach with a particular love of introducing new swimmers to the open water.