They are the walrus

It’s winter, so for most of us, it’s time to wrap up in our woollies to ward off the biting cold. Not so, however, for some intrepid go-getters in Russia — who put on their swimwear and take a dip in ice-cold water in frozen lakes and rivers.

Meet the audacious ice swimmers — or “walruses” as they like to be known — of Serebryanny Bor (literally “Silver Pinewood”), a picturesque expanse of white birch trees and small lakes northwest of Moscow.

This week, the amateur club of extreme bathers have been celebrating the start of their society’s 51st season.

At the opening of the new season, Sergei Maksimov, the chairman of the Serebryanny Bor winter swimming club, congratulated his devotees, giving the necessary instructions:

“Get ready for the swim! Change out of your clothes and approach the water pool. Quick, march!”

Among the walruses at season’s open were six children of local sportswoman Yulia Sovetskaya, who herself loves to go walrusing.

“My 5-year-old daughter Eva became a ‘walrus’ today,” she told Metro. “We go swimming in this water because it makes us healthy and teaches us about the strength and fortitude of our spirit, our mind.

“It’s not as horrific as it looks and feels,” she added. “My children don’t suffer.”

60 seconds with …

Sergei Maksimov, the chairman of the Serebryanny Bor winter swimming club, spoke to Metro about the distinctly Russian pursuit of ice swimming.

What does your club do?

It’s all about the promotion of a rigorous, healthy lifestyle, toughening our bodies up for resistance to diseases and the elements.

For how many years have you been “walrusing”?

For more than 50 years. I am actually 92 years old. I feel like I’m 35.

Tell us about the secrets to longevity and healthy living.

There are several conditions for longevity: The first one is a routine of conditioning so that the cold water acts like a panacea. The second one is a regimen of preparing your muscles before you dive; you must exercise first. The third aspect is good nutrition — healthy, natural food without any preservatives. The fourth one is hunger therapy to let your body heal itself from inside. 


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