Paul Duffield got his feet wet in open water swimming four years ago when he attempted the annual Across the Lake Swim.
He got his feet wet again, in considerably colder water, last December when he became the first person to successfully complete a mile-long ice swim in Canada.
Last Saturday he reached a new level by swimming 1.44 miles in four degrees celsius water.
The distance broke the previous record—held by Ram Barkai, founder of the International Ice Swimming Association—by one-hundredth of a mile.
“I had to unofficially notify (the IISA) Sunday morning, that I’d done this swim on Saturday,” said Duffield.
“(Barkai) contacted me, congratulated me, said it was an awesome job and said: ‘You do realize I’ve got to go out and swim 2.4 km now.’ He wants his record back—there may be a bit of a rivalry.”
Although the swim resulted in a new record, it didn’t go exactly as planned.
The wind picked up just before Duffield began his attempt, making it difficult to swim against the waves.
He had planned to complete five laps along Rotary Beach in Gellatly Bay, but by the end of the fourth lap, he knew he couldn’t go much further.
“Swimming against the waves and the wind slowed down my progress. By the time I made a turn on the fifth lap, I realized I was getting pretty cold and I started to shiver in the water.
“The priority has got to be to get off the lake safely. Distances and records are second to safety.”
Knowing it was time to quit, he swam directly back to the beach. Fortunately, the four-plus laps was enough to secure the record.
Duffield said longest ice swim distance is one of several categories where records can be made in the newly developed sport.
“I’m not one of the quickest swimmers, but I’m someone who can get in and swim at a steady pace and just keep going. I realized, if I was going to get a record, distance would be the one for me to shoot for.”
Saturday’s swim was likely the finale to Duffield’s inaugural ice swimming season, but he plans to continue competing in cold water in the future.
“This is the first winter that I’ve done anything like this, and I’ve found it not only very challenging, but incredibly rewarding as well.”
To date, 46 people in the world have successfully completed ice swims. Duffield said one of his future goals is to add another Canadian to that list.
“I would like to find Canada’s next ice swimmer. If somebody is out there who fancies giving it a go and meets all the medical requirements needed, I can maybe help them get in the record books.”