A winter swimming club in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, aptly named the Cryophiles after organisms that thrive in the cold, has about 300 members. They are all tougher — and possibly healthier — than you are.
The club gathers young and old from all walks of life. Their common denominator is a shared love of bracing dips in the Yenisei River. Some of those swims take place in air temperatures of –30 C. Or lower.
But that doesn't stop nine-year-old Anastasiya Usachyova, whose friends think what she does is impossible. She says she feels cold "at first," but then just "overcomes it."
Meet the Cryophiles.
Anastasiya Usachyova, and her mother, Natalia, a former winter swimming world champion, warm up before hitting the water on a -24 C, mid-November day in Krasnoyarsk, a city in the middle of Siberian Russia. (Ilya Naymushin/Reuters)
'When I leave the water, it feels like I am ready to fly.'
A former soldier, 77-year-old Nikolai Bocharov started winter swimming while serving in Germany. ‘When I came home from the army, I made an ice hole in the Yenisei and bathed there,’ he says. (Ilya Naymushin/Reuters) Bocharov, who says his wife doesn’t understand him or share his hobby, likes to rub snow on his body after his icy river baths. (Ilya Naymushin/Reuters)
'All problems leave me. The world around me seems beautiful.'
Mikhail Shakov, 23, recently left the notoriously tough Russian army. He marked his first day as a civilian, which happened to be –27 C, by taking a dip. For Shakov, swimming is a way of unwinding and setting his troubles aside. (Ilya Naymushin/Reuters)
Cold-water swimming may have healing properties
Sisters Liza Broverman, 6, and Yulia Klimenkova, 16, (who says cold swimming cured her of a virus) have been members for years. (Ilya Naymushin/Reuters) The air temperature was only around –16 C on Nov. 15, when Broverman and Klimenkova were photographed. Their family members say swimming in cold water regularly boosts health. (Ilya Naymushin/Reuters)
'The moment of immersion is a sensation of delight. But my wife says I am crazy.'
Mikhail Sashko, one of the founders of the Cryophiles, showed off his cold-water prowess on Polar Bear Day at a zoo in Krasnoyarsk on Nov. 29. (Ilya Naymushin/Reuters)
When they aren't swimming in cold water...
Bocharov likes to hunt on the Siberian tundra with his dog Laika. (Ilya Naymushin/Reuters) Snowball fights are also a regular Cryophile club activity. (Ilya Naymushin/Reuters)
'If there's no river, I have to find another way to pour cold water over myself.'
Retiree Vladimir Khokhlov, 71, working on his outdoor rink, says he ‘can’t live without bathing daily in cold water, it’s like a drug.’ (Ilya Naymushin/Reuters)