Doug Alt

Cold Water Swims - Why????SS-Last_Passenger_Train.html

Another challenge that I have been attacking recently is outdoor, cold water, Winter Swimming, both here at the New Jersey shore and at river and lake locations between New Jersey and Minnesota.

Up until the Fall of 2010, I would rarely go in the ocean water here in New Jersey until the end of July or the beginning of August. Earlier in the season, the water was just too cold for me. August and September swimming was just my style!

My inspiration for trying to extend my capabilities a bit derived from reading about several swimmers around the world who have done some amazing feats in very cold water. One of those swimmers, Don Walsh, lives right nearby in Spring Lake, NJ, and has, in addition to doing some prodigious open water swims (e.g.: 28.5 miles around Manhattan and 41.5 miles around the Isle of Jersey in The English Channel) made a practice of swimming in the Atlantic here at the NJ Coast at least once each month for the past 10 years!

For my own first efforts at this, over the Winter of 2010-11, I was able to get out into the cold water 2 times each month. During the 2011-12 “season” I have been averaging a bit more than once a week. My distances covered each time are NOT very huge, usually something in the 75-yard to 150-yard range.

I did manage a 1/5 mile swim the last week of January this year (2012), but I have also gone into the water and come right back out on occasion due to being spooked by currents and wave conditions.

The coldest conditions I have swum in were air temperature in the 20’s and the water at 39º.

No wetsuit involved for all this, just a bathing suit and a swim cap that has a bit of insulation factor built in.

Carolyn and I visit kids and grand-kids in Minnesota early each Spring. My swims there, in the St. Croix river, have been on early April days when the St. Croix ice had just melted, but when lakes and ponds nearby still had ice. Several times, ice had to be scraped off our car windshield in order for me to drive down to the river for my swim!


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