Cold Sweat: The Joys of Winter Swimming

Dec 10, 2023Mikkel Bechshøft
Cold Sweat: The Joys of Winter Swimming

The Vikings may have died out a few centuries ago but, on any given winter day in Denmark, their spirit lives on in the form of countless descendants (and their friends) leaping into the freezing cold sea for a spot of winter swimming. Whereas most of us wait for baking August temperatures before venturing into the water, Danes think nothing of a cold plunge in mid-January, perhaps even breaking open the ice in the harbour to get in. 

Healthy Glow
But, despite the horror many feel at subjecting oneself to such a cold-shock treatment, fans of the practice claim that the benefits are huge. Experts point out that the sudden jolt of almost-freezing water for just a few seconds boosts the immune system and stimulates blood circulation. It also gives you a rush of adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine which in turn leaves you with a warm and fuzzy feeling as you dry off and put your clothes on again. 

Freezing with Friends
Of course, if you are crazy enough to swim in the Baltic in sub-zero temperatures, you really need a few witnesses to bear testament to your bravery (and take the very necessary Inta photos with obligatory snowflake/blue face/aubergine emojis and documentation of the exact air temperature). In true Danish hygge style, a whole social life surrounding harbour-side winter hi-jinx has grown up: it’s common to see groups of friends in towelling gowns huddled together drinking hot coffee out of flasks, comparing blue toes or congregating in nearby cafés to slowly thaw out again.

Turning the heat up a little…
If, however, you want to make your winter bathing into a bit of an occasion, there are plenty of opportunities to make it even more sociable, cosier and - yes! - perhaps a little less spartan with a whole bunch of saunas popping up to take the chill out of your post-plunge shivers.

Many seaside towns in Denmark have their own swimming clubs, but Copenhagen harbour now features Sauna by GoBoat, a state-of-the-art sauna that gets moored at different locations around the city. Seating up to twelve friends, the floating hot room features huge panoramic windows that let you see out (and others look in, so make sure you are wearing your best Pond swimwear!).

Fancy something a bit more rock n roll? Then why not hire Butcher’s Heat - a mobile sauna in a van that can be parked anywhere near water, giving you the perfect hot bolt hole after your freezing dip. And who knows? After twenty minutes in the heat, you might be persuaded to jump in again…

Get the best tips for winter bathing by film director and long time winter dipper Lasse Lund.

This blot post was written by contributing writer and fashion editor Graham Addinall