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Distance record set for cold water swim

March 5, 2013
Paul Duffield and some of his support crew.

Paul Duffield and some of his support crew.

By becoming Canada’s first ice swimmer last year, Paul Duffield has already joined an elite group of extreme athletes that number less than 50 around the world. Still Canada’s only officially recognized ice swimmer, Duffield completed his second successful “ice swim” of the winter on Saturday, March 2 at Gellatly Bay in West Kelowna.

Duffield took 54 minutes and 2 seconds to swim a distance of 2.32 km in frigid 4*C water, just squeaking in to break the previous record of 2.30 km held by South African swimmer Ram Barkai, the International Ice Swimming Association (IISA)’s founder.

Even with spring-like temperatures this week, the lake temperature is still below the IISA’s maximum qualifying water temperature of 5*C.

The details of the record-breaking swim have been submitted to the IISA and Duffield now awaits official confirmation.

Surrounded by his support crew, which included a doctor amongst the ground support team as well as a kayaker, Duffield took to the water late in the afternoon. By the time he got into the lake, the start had been delayed by nearly an hour, due to several challenges including having his swim cap rip just as he was about to step into the lake. Duffield showed mental toughness by keeping his focus and staying positive.

The wind picked up during his swim and was gusting at times up to 20km/h, making the lake surface choppy as he swam against the wind and waves. Duffield said, “Dealing with the cold is something I have learned to deal with but the strong wind gusts made it a really tough swim to get through”.

Duffield has spent the last four months acclimatizing himself to the cold. He explained “I have been taking ice baths at home and drove through the winter even on the coldest days with the windows down wearing just a t-shirt. But the only real way to get used to the cold water is to get into the lake, over and over again”.

With such a small group of committed swimmers worldwide, there is naturally some friendly rivalry.

Duffield was contacted on Sunday morning by Ram Barkai himself after reading the announcement on Facebook. Ram congratulated Duffield on his swim saying “Well done. Amazing feat…Do you realize that I have no choice but go and swim 2.4 km now?”

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