Faces red raw from the cold, their clothes sodden and freezing, a group of children take the plunge into dangerous sub-zero waters while their friends look on.
For them, this is not for a dare or a laugh, but vital survival training for many Swedish schoolkids.
In 2021, 16 people were killed in Sweden after falling through ice, according to the Swedish Life Rescue Society. Around 100 incidents were reported that year.
In a bid to teach children how to deal with a perilious situation like this, Vaxmora School in the Sollentuna Municipality of Stockholm County, introduced what they call isvaksovning – a ‘hole-in-the-ice-exercise’.
40 pupils from the 750-strong school take turns submerging themselves in the chilly waters every day for three weeks. The repetition helps their body to acclimatise and reduce the effects of cold-water shock.
It’s a matter of personal achievement for some of them. 11-year-old Siri Franzen spent two-and-a-half minutes under the ice before dragging herself up, beating her brother’s record.
Kate Streels, a champion ice swimmer who regularly races in freezing water tells metro.co.uk that getting into cold water can be tough but exhilarating.
‘Submerging yourself into water like this is a shock if you are not used to it. You feel every degree below five degrees,’ she explains.
‘When you’re acclimatised, getting into zero degrees does feel very cold and your fingers and toes go numb pretty much immediately. It’s a unique and special feeling. Acclimatisation is key, which is why the kids in Sweden do it so many times. And they will warm themselves up slowly afterwards to stay safe.
‘After drop – when your body reduces in temperature even when you are out of the water – can be very dangerous,’ she adds. ‘But you get a real buzz and a natural high when you come out.’
From cold water swimming to our fascination with everything Wim Hof, there’s no doubt that braving sub-zero temperatures has hit the mainstream – but for these children there’s nothing phenomenal about being submerged in freezing cold waters. For them, it’s simply a matter of survival.
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