Swimming in Siberia - taking the plunge when the air is minus 30C

Wed Jan 6, 2016 7:14am EST
 
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By Ilya Naymushin

KRASNOYARSK, Russia (Reuters) - A winter swimming club in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk gathers young and old from all walks of life. They share a love of bracing, cold water. Siberian cold.

“The moment of immersion is a sensation of delight. Afterwards there’s a rush of energy and my entire body feels relaxed,” said Mikhail Sashko, 68, chairman of the club. “My wife says I am crazy.”

With a small wooden clubhouse on the banks of the Yenisei River, the Cryophile winter swimming club - named after organisms that thrive in extremely cold temperatures - has about 300 members.

These swimmers say they, themselves, flourish in air temperatures that often reach 30 degrees Celsius below zero (minus 22 Fahrenheit) or lower in the long months of a Siberian winter.

One picture in a Reuters photo story shows Mikhail Shakov, 23, a demobilized Russian soldier, swimming towards an ice-floe but sporting a traditional ushanka, or ear-hat. In another, photo Nikolai Bocharov, 77, rubs a snow on his body as he sits on a snowdrift after bathing.

To see the photo story, click: reut.rs/1ReETqo

Aged from under one year old to 79, the members include school pupils, engineers and retired construction or water utility workers. The club’s spirit of fun includes pouring buckets of water on each other when celebrating Polar Bear Day at a zoo in a suburb of Krasnoyarsk, one of Siberia’s largest cities. Like children anywhere, young club members have snowball fights - but in this case wearing just their swimming costumes.

Some members of the club say regular bathing in cold water has had a positive impact on their health. Yulia Klimenkova, 16, whose whole family are also members, says the cold water boosts her immunity and recently helped her get over a respiratory virus.   Continued...

 
Mikhail Shakov, 23, who recently left the army and is a member of the Cryophile winter swimmers club, enters the icy water of the Yenisei River on the first day after returning from military service in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia, November 21, 2015. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin