Your Guide to Getting in the Cold Water | Great Lakes Guide

People and the Lakes

Your Guide to Getting in the Cold Water

Published December 6, 2018

Cold water is on the the rise

Although the thought of jumping into the open water during the winter months may send you running back to the fireplace, cold water swimming has been practiced and praised across cultures and locations for centuries.

Cold water swimming is claimed to boast a slew of health benefits, ranging from increased circulation, immunity, and metabolism, to improved mental health and libido. As a result, more and more people are trying cold water swimming as part of a natural health regiment.

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Cold water swimming is also becoming a popular way to get outside and exercise in the winter months.

Since its genesis in 2009, the International Ice Swimming Association has grown to have branches in over 40 countries around the world. Winter surfing is also on rise, with places like Canada’s eastern coast becoming premier cold water surfing destinations.

In recent years, the sport has also been popularized by people who dare to push the boundaries of the human body

Lewis Pugh is one of the most famous open and cold water swimmers in the world. He frequently uses these extreme activities to raise awareness about environmental issues, such as the protection and restoration of marine environments and sea level rise.

In 2007 he swam a kilometer across the geographic North Pole to highlight the impacts of climate change on the area. In 2010 he swam a kilometer across Lake Pumori, a glacial lake on Mount Everest, to draw attention to the melting ice caps in the region.

The water was below 2°C (28°F) for both of these events.

Alternatively, superhuman Wim Hof, who is pictured below breaking 1 of his 21 world records, has developed an entire lifestyle regiment, known as the Wim Hof Method, that largely revolves around cold water exposure and breathing techniques.

He has put himself and his methods through rigorous scientific testing, and continues to push the frontier of human ability. Using his training, Wim Hof claims people can gain control over their auto immune and respiratory systems, leading to numerous health benefits.

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If all this has you excited to strip down and jump into icy waters, be sure to consider whether cold water swimming is right for you. For the average beginner, cold water exposure poses as many risks as it does benefits.

We’ve already written articles on cold water safety and winter water quality issues for surfers, which provide tips for staying safe in and around cold water. This time, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best resources on the web that you should consult before getting into wintery waters.

    As with all open water activities, if you’re doing it alone you’re doing it wrong

General Resources

The Lone Swimmer Blog

This award winning blog is known as the cold water bible for swimmers. Operated by Donal Buckley, The Lone Swimmer offers an expansive library of original articles on everything coldwater swimming.

International Ice Swimming Association

Started by Ram Barkai and friends, the IISA is the leading international organization for the promotion and ice swimming. The Association organizes events and provides numerous resources on the sport.

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Glenn Euloth (Flickr: Link)

Cold Water Swimming Resources


6 Tips for Cold Water Swimming

Writing for the Outdoor Swimming Society, Jonathan Cowie offers tips to prepare for and manage cold water swimming.


8 Ways to Handle Swimming in Cold Water

Triathlon swimming coach Kevin Koskella details 8 ways to handle cold water swimming, especially when its competitive.


Cold Water Swimming and Bathing Health Benefits

In this article, Ralph Teller provides both precautions about cold water swimming, as well as a detailed account of the health benefits of it.

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Joel Hageman (Flickr: Link)

Cold Water Surfing Resources


A Beginners Guide to Cold Water Surfing

Cottage Life offers a beginners guide to cold water surfing. They even make some suggestions for the best spots in Canada!


How to Surf in Cold Water

The offers both gear related and practical advice for catching a winter wave.


How to Enjoy Cold Water Surfing

Surfer Magazine provides insights into how to actually enjoy, rather than tolerate, cold water surfing.

For more inspiration to get you out in the cold water, visit our Ideas page.



Fall, Winter