Five months ago, West Kelowna’s Paul Duffield had little more than a dream of becoming an ice swimmer.
He had done some training in cold water, but seemed uncertain if he would succeed prior to his first official ice swim.
But since last December he has completed Canada’s first mile-long ice swim, broken the ice swimming long distance world record and earned a modest amount of fame in a unique and challenging sport.
This summer he will continue to make ice swimming history when he joins 39 other cold water endurance swimmers in a relay swim across the Bering Straight.
The Bering Strait is only ice-free from June to October and is one of the only bodies of water that has not yet been conquered by swimmers. Sea temperatures in the summer average about 5 degrees celsius.
The team will travel from Cape Dezhnev, Russia to Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska.
The total distance the swimmers will cover is 86 km; however, with tides and currents that distance could feel more like 110 km. It will likely take over 40 hours to complete the journey.
Duffield will be the only Canadian swimmer in the group.
“I couldn’t believe it when I read the e-mail,” said Duffield after receiving an official invitation from Andrew Chin, founding member of the International Ice Swimming Association.
“I had to read it over and over to make sure I wasn’t dreaming it. I’m thrilled to be included in a project of this international and historic importance.”
Duffield said the swimmers will rotate through individual legs of 10 to 20 minutes each.
He noted the swim is being supported by the Russian government and will take place at the end of July.