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Tyumen, Siberia, truly extreme winter swimming.

preparing the "swimming pool"

In 2011 I met 2 men from Tyumen, Andrey and Andrey.  It sounds like the start of a tongue twister but its the start of a short story about a journey to the first city in Siberia, namely Tyumen and the ensuing endurance winter swimming that took place including a new world record for one of the sports leading lights and a personal record for myself.

After we swam together in Avacha bay, Kamchatka, the two Andrey’s were surprised and pleased to learn that I had heard of Tyumen. All I really knew was that it had received a recent boom due to the energy industry.

When the invitation came to attend a winter swimming event there in December of that year I reluctantly but quite rightly turned it down due to personal reasons. Luckily i got a second bite at the cherry and when I met the 2 Andreys again in 2013 they were keen to ask me once more whether i would go to Tyumen.

Bering Strait swim, Russia to USA finally succeeds in 2013

swimming the last 300m together with flags (photo: Stacey Mueller, Wales,AK)

After what seems like an eternity we finally landed at the native village of Wales, the most western point of the United States of America after we started swimming from Cape Dezhnev, the most eastern point of Russia

The swim took 6 days and the organisation took far, far longer….

Spitzbergen 2013, Winter swimming and polar travel

Svalbard reindeer "grazing" on cladonia moss

For the last few years I had been thinking more about making a trip to the arctic, combining winter swimming with traditional polar travel. This went from fanciful idea to reality, mainly as I realized that I had a lot of the necessary skills for such a trip, namely tolerance to cold, endurance and a general indifference to hardship both emotional and physical. (after dealing with a murder the former becomes easier)….


Lake Windermere, Lake district, UK.

I had planned to do an Ice Mile (a mile swim in water of less than 5 degrees) last season but unfortunately conditions went against me and I had to wait until February 2013 and the fabulous first year of the Big Chill Swim for an attempt at the current holy grail of endurance winter swimming. Unfortunately, the conditions again went against us as the water temperature rose from 4.6c in the morning to 5.1c in the afternoon. While 0.1 degree doesn’t sound like much, and swimming in 5.1 degree water compared to 4.9 degree water doesn’t feel hugely different, once we set standards for records we should stick to them. We agreed our swim would be a ‘Nice Mile’ rather than an official ‘Ice Mile’. However, with two turn buoys to be negotiated 20 times and a low sun this was never going to be easy but of course that is part of the thrill of open water swimming….

Winter swimming the film wins award!

Myself, Petra from the festival and Matej of 1.PKO swimming club

After a successful run in the film festival of winter sports in the Czech Republic our documentary “winter swimming” was awarded the judges special prize for the film with the biggest aspect of personal challenge attached to it. Considering that the jury were mainly alpinists and enthusiasts of the more traditional winter sports this was a great show of recogntion for our sport.

Memorial Alfred Nikodem Prague 26th December


750m Elite wave start the second circuit

President of the swimming club 1.PKO Dr Tomas Prokop was up all  night trying to finalise the details for the traditional swim on the 26th of December right in the centre of Prague. This year it was a particularly difficult task due to the unseasonable weather which resulted in a flow of some 336 cumecs as the dams upstream were opened to let the excessive runoff through. We had tested the course the week before but crucially this was during the cold period, with an air temperature of  minus 5c before the snow melted and the rain came.


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