THE KOŠICE Seals (Košické tulene), a club of people who are “winter-swimming fans” bid farewell to 2011 in a rather untraditional way by holding a group swim in a lake in the Košice borough of Nad jazerom. About twenty hardy swimmers tested the lake water, which was only about three degrees Celsius; the youngest participant was 10 years old and the oldest was 70.
“We want to say goodbye to the old year in this way,” Marián Jaroš, head of the club he founded 11 years ago, told the SITA newswire. “If one toughens up, one can feel full of energy after leaving the icy water,” he added, saying that the process of toughening one’s body is also good for positive thinking.
The chilling hobby seems to be more attractive to men, as the only woman who participated on January 1 was Jaroš’s daughter Miriam, who said she is inspired by her father and has participated in cold-water swims for three years. “The Christmas swimming was nicer as there was at least some snow. The water today was OK though, so I swam a little bit. I also enjoy the atmosphere,” she told SITA.
The town of Žilina in northern Slovakia has its own version of Košice’s seals but they call themselves penguins and swim mostly in the Váh River. They have an eight-year-long tradition of celebrating the New Year in the river’s water and at the turn of the year a group of 20 tough athletes swam to capture a bottle of champagne floating on the river.
The swimmers told SITA that the water was warm – 2 degrees Celsius – and that the onlookers seem to be colder than they were. The champagne bottle was tossed into the Váh as “liquid bait” by Jozef Repčík, the head of the Penguin Club.