In March 2015, the first ever International Ice Swimming World Championships were held in Murmansk, Russia, in a pool cut out of a vast frozen lake, in water of 0oC. Swimmers from nations including South Africa, Argentina and Ireland battled each other, and the cold, over a distance of 1km, armed only with a pair of Speedos, a pair of goggles and a swimming hat.
Photographer Shamil Tanna was there to document this savage and fascinating event for The Red Bulletin. He witnessed the mental and physical preparation as swimmers psyched themselves up to take the icy plunge, undergoing obligatory ECGs to ensure their hearts could last the distance. And the slow, painful process of recovery, known as ‘coming back’, in specially equipped steam rooms. But, given the brutality of the sport, most surprising was the real sense of euphoria competitors felt after the event. It became clear that ice swimming gives these otherwise very different swimmers one thing in common: a feeling of being truly alive