Brave swimmers gathered in a small Finland town earlier this week to brave extreme cold and compete in the annual Ice Swimming Championship.
Ahtari, a Finnish city with only about 6,000 residents, was the scene of one of northern Europe’s coldest events, as thousands of people from around the globe flocked to the town for the competition.
In 20-degree temperatures, competitors got into their swimwear and jump into a frozen lake. They swim a lap and emerge on the other side.
The swimmers can then go into a hot tub that’s set to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit or saunas where the temperature is about 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It doesn’t feel great to go there, because, of course, it’s cold,” one swimmer told APTN. “But the feeling afterwards is great. When you are here with all these people, you don’t have time to think about it. You just go there and swim.”
Ice swimming is believed to speed up blood circulation and relieve pain in the back, neck and shoulders. It is very popular in Finland and the competition attracts enthusiasts of all ages, from toddlers to senior citizens in their 80s.
The competition has been running for more than 20 years and swimmers must register in advance to secure a spot.
“There’s a limited number of people that can join, so you need to be inside in order to register, because so many people want to come here to compete,” Jonna Pietila, managing director of the organizing committee of the championship, told APTN. “And you need to be in good time in order to register to the competition, but basically anyone can do it though.”