Stefan and another friend from Montreal invited me to an ice swimming event in Montreal. It would be the last event I’d attend in Montreal. So, at 1PM on Saturday, a group of couchsurfers meet Stefan and me on the Island St. Helene. Only three of us brought bathing clothes, the other ten “just wanted to watch” .. what a disappointing number of wussies and pussies.

After a little walk we arrive at a frozen lake in the middle of the island. A crowd of people is gathered around a hole in the ice. Three tents accompany the group and seem to be there for medical reasons. We pass two abulance cars, ten paramedics, two policemen on horses and a squad of about 20 policemen next to the hole. There are four divers in wetsuits sitting on the border of the hole and swing their legs in the water. Huge mascots stand on ice blocks which were cut out to create the water pool – they are at least half a meter thick. Some guy is holding a metal torch to symbolize the Olympic background of this event – it is a fundraiser for the Special Olympics in Montreal.

Fundraiser. That’s the part that made us doubt if we would participate – officially, you have to “donate” 50$ to jump in the water. We negotiate with the organizers, but no chance. Either you pay 50$, or you can just watch. Three people over fourty are holding hands and finally jump in the water. Everyone is cheering. They climb out of the water to make space for a fat man in a Hawaii shirt and an ugly hat.

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We decide that there’s a better way than to pay 50$ just to be supervised by a supersized police corp and medical assistance. “This river, over there!”, suggests Yan, the only guy manly enough apart from Stefan and me who brought swimming equipment. We go to the river “over there”, but instead of a river, we find a cover of deep snow – hard to show off swimming skills in there. The last possibility is the St. Laurent river, a large masss of floating water and ice that surrounds Montreal island. We get to the shore but encounter a five meter wide ice platform – not a safe place to jump in the powerful current and get out quickly enough to not freeze – oustide temperatures of -10° C combined with a water that is around 0° C can be pretty lethal.

At this point, I knew I had to return to downtown with the subway to say goodbye to my boss Naomi and catch my bus to New York city. Stefan, this hardcore Gedenkdiener and Yan, the hardline couchsurfer tough, took the brave bath. They went to the other side of the island and found a decent spot that allowed them to get into the river and out again. I couldn’t witness it myself, but this photo looks real:

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