Winter Swimming World Championships in Rovaniemi

In Rovaniemi, from 20th to 23rd of March, the Winter Swimming World Championships were held and 34 countries and over  1240 participants took part in the event.

It is not rare to find in many places in Finland and Lapland open wholes in the ice of rivers, lakes and even in the sea, where some people enjoy ‘avanto uinti‘ as it is call the winter swimming in Finland. This refreshing bath can be enjoyed in a little whole, where you can dip quickly in the freezing water, or bigger ones, where you can swim… if you dare!

Swimming pool made of ice

Few weeks ago, behind the offices of Lapland Safaris in Rovaniemi, some guys equipped with power saws started to cut the ice of Kemijoki River. Others took the ice blocks with the help of diggers, and little by little the complete a big hole with 25m long and several lines for the swimmers.

opening the ice swimming pool

Working on progress: opening the ice swimming pool (Photo from the Facebook page of Winter Swimming World Championships 2014)

Once the swimming pool was ready, they installed the ladders and prepare the rest of the area, installing a tent where the participants would wait their turn for competing.

The competition

As in normal swimming competitions, there are different disciplines when we talk about winter swimming. Some swimmers will complete 25m. (the total length of the swimming pool) and others 50m. Some will compete in freestyle and some breaststroke, and some teams will do it in the discipline of relay. For me, the most incredible discipline was without any doubt the Endurance Series, where the participants had to complete 450m.

The air temperature those days was between -3°C and -15°C, and the water was around +1°C. In those temperatures a healthy body can maybe stay around 5 or 6 min before getting a shock, which could end in death, due to hypothermia. To me, one of the most impressive competitors was Marina Schwarz, a German lady who finished the last one in her group category in the Endurance Series. She was over 22 minutes to complete the 450m… and she still finished smiling!

Winter Swimming in Rovanemi

Picture from the Facebook page of Winter Swimming World Championships 2014 / Talviuinnin MM-kisat 2014

Before the swimming, all the swimmers goes in front of their lines and are presented to the public. Then, they will hear:

1. Take off your clothes
2. Get in the water
3. On your marks….

As each Competitor enters the water, they will be instructed by lane marshals and officials to put their shoulders under the water, and to get into the start position. For this position each competitor must visibly hold the entry steps with one hand below the coloured tape. The procedure of preparing start duration will be 3 seconds between every command for all Competitors. If a Competitor is late they will lose their start time and can not lodge a protest.

Each swimmer finishes the swim by touching the wall at the end of their lane with at least one hand.

Video from the Winter Swimming World Championships

On Friday I went to see the competition and I made this video which show a bit the atmosphere and some of the races of that day.

Have you ever tried winter swimming?

Credits to the pictures: the pictures of this post are from the official Facebook page of Winter Swimming World Championships and from Hello Lapland.

Author: Julián Amorrich

A Spanish happily living in Lapland for the last 14 years. Passionate about Finland and her nature. Working in tourism, at Lapland Safaris, running on the forest no matter the weather, writing at and

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