In February Skellefteå will host the Scandinavian Winter Bathing Championship for the fifth consecutive year. This year, the championship is also part of the Winter Swimming World Cup. The event has become a natural part of winter in Skellefteå and today it is an appreciated festival for the entire city – all founded on a declaration of love for the cold and dark.
On average it takes a professional swimmer about 20 seconds to swim the 25 metre lane surrounded by ice in central Skellefteå. We know this because professional winter swimming, in temperatures just above zero, has been organised here since 2012. Participants compete in breaststroke and freestyle swimming as well as a more relaxed “hat and cap race”.
“A naked body loses 50 percent of its heat through the head. That’s why it’s important to keep your hat on when winter bathing”, says Jarkko Enqvist, winter bathing enthusiast and manager for marketing and events with the association Mörkrets och Kylans Glada Vänner (lit. The Happy Friends of the Cold and Dark) which is behind the event. In 2015 there were more than 200 individual races and the hope for the 2016 Championship is that the number of participants will be doubled and that there will be an audience of thousands.