Fiona Outdoors logo My independent guide to the best of Scotland outdoors

Have you tried: Ice swimming?

Written by Fiona

February 14 2017

Ice swimming is an increasingly popular sport apparently. Rather them than me but there is a growing trend for people to swim without wetsuits (in just normal swimming costumes) in open water through the winter. To qualify as an ice swim, the water must be 5C or lower. I reported on the sport – and revealed the British Ice Swimming Champs was heading for Loch Lomond.

Read the Sunday Mail article or the story below.

Rising trend: Ice swimming

Scottish swimmer Emma Cummings swims in the Ice Swimming Champs. Pic credit: Sunday Mail.

What is it?: Ice swimming is the official title for swimming in open water with a temperature of 5C or below.

Swimmers cannot wear wetsuits and rules state that they must swim in only “a standard swimming costume, goggles and a swim cap”.

Tell me more: In 2009, an International Ice Swimming Association (IISA) was founded by South African swimmer Ram Barkai.

His vision was to formalise swimming in icy water. There are now almost 50 country members, including the UK.

IISA also gives advice for ensuring the safety of swimmers and sets guidelines on water temperatures, distance, time and conditions.

At ice swimming competitions, the Ice Mile is considered the ultimate distance.

More recently a 1000m event has been introduced to allow more people to compete.

There is a full calendar of ice swimming events both at world and national level.

And this month, the first international ice swimming competition arrives in Scotland.

The IISA Ice Cup & British Ice Swimming Championships event takes place at Loch Lomond on February 11.

Based at The Cruin on the loch’s western shoes, the championship race will be 1000m.

The first Scottish Ice Swimming competition. Pic credit: Sunday Mail

ISSA founder Ram said: “IISA’s passion – and the people that swim in our events – is to swim in icy waters in every location possible around our globe.

“This is growing all the time and we are delighted to see a new event in Scotland.”

Pauline Barker is a leading figure in IISA Great Britain, which is organising the Scottish event in partnership with Balloch-based Swim 4 Miles.

Pauline said: “We have held British ice swimming championships in southern England before but there is a demand for a competition in Scotland.

“Loch Lomond is perfect with a stunning location and waters that will hopefully be cold enough this month.

“We have heard that many international ice swimmers are keen to come to Scotland and we hope they will in future years as the event grows in size.”

Chill swim: Swimmers leaving the water. Sunday Mail.

Anything else to know?: Entries to the British Ice Swimming Championships in Loch Lomond sold out in just days.

Because it’s a new event and there are safety issues, numbers have been capped at just over 30.

Next year, the plan is to have a far bigger field of ice swimmers.

This year there will also be an Ice Gala based at The Cruin with races of 50m to 500m and a ceilidh.

Pauline said: “The shorter races give a wider number of people the chance to try ice swimming.

“We also hope that people will come along to spectate and to enjoy a number of other entertainments, including a post-race party.”

Who are the ice swimmers?

Emma takes on the 1k Ice Swim in Loch Lomond. Pic credit: Sunday Mail

For many swimmers, our Scottish lochs are chilly enough in the summer and most will wear a wetsuit for warmth.

Yet there is a growing number who prefer to swim in only their swimming costumes and year-round.

Emma Cummings, of Helensburgh, is a keen cold water swimmer and has entered the 1000m race at the British Ice Swimming Championships on Saturday.

Emma also completed a relay swim the length of Loch Lomond two years ago.

She said: “Four years ago, while swimming with a small group from the Wild West Swimmers group, we agreed to see how long we could carry on swimming in the lochs after the summer.

“I was already swimming without a wetsuit but I did wear neoprene gloves and boots for warmth.

“We just kept swimming and the months went by and we were still going in every week.

“These days I swim without any neoprene aids and I find it an amazing experience.”

Emma believes there are many benefits including the “fantastic adrenaline buzz you get when you come out of the cold water”.

She said: “I have got used to getting in the cold water. I have swam in water as cold as 3C.

“I do scream a bit when I first get in because the water is so cold but once I’m in it feels incredible.

“I love the surreal feeling of swimming amid nature and in such a pristine environment.”

Emma usually swims for about 20 minutes and then follows a special routine when she gets out of the water.

She said: “You need to let your body warm up gently rather than all at once.

“I have all my kit laid out to get changed into and I have a hot drink ready.

“Then I walk about a bit. The feeling after an ice swim is just fantastic. It leaves me buzzing for many hours afterwards.”

The Loch Lomond event will be her first Ice Swimming 1000m competition.

She said: “I am nervous about the race but it’s a first event for Scotland and it’s so close to my home so it seems perfect.

“It’s also something very different and I am looking forward to giving the race a try.”

Contacts:, and

Find out how Emma got on with her ice swim. Also read about Mark Cohen’s 500m Ice Swim.

More Like This


Historical landmarks of the Golden Triangle – A journey through time, taste and tranquillity


Six new sports you might like to try


Cycling on the Black Isle


Cycle Aviemore to Inverness


Online safety tips to protect your data while you travel


Cruising for the first time: What to expect on board