BUSAN, South Korea — People may think it crazy to venture into the waters of Haeundae in January, but it is an old tradition in even colder parts of the world. In the Netherlands, Canada and the USA, where the most popular Polar Bear events are held annually, as many as 10,000 people turn out to take an icy swim in the middle of winter.
The main drive behind these events is charity and fun, but whatever the reasons for dipping in to icy-cold waters, the events are becoming more and more popular around the globe.
Of course there are also the health benefits of exposing your body to extreme cold. Studies show that a few minutes in ice-cold water can prevent muscle stiffness, aid injury recovery, and athletes often use ice baths as part of their post training/match recovery. Although the plunge can induce sleep, which doesn’t bode too well for staying alive in the water, it also gets your adrenaline pumping and makes you feel great. In Europe, ice-water swimming is connected with sauna use where people run from a sauna and into a freezing cold lake. This is the ultimate form of stress relief and featured at most saunas here in Korea.
Although the Official Busan Polar Bear Swim is in its 25th year and took place last month, last year two expats decided to begin an unofficial event that didn’t clash with their vacation dates. Not wanting a chance to miss out on the fun of a mid-winter’s dip they rounded up a group of Busanites to brave the cold waters.
With last year’s event being such a success, they decided to do it again. This year however, the goal is to raise awareness and funds for the Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary. There will be t-shirts and calendars on sale with all proceeds going to BAPS.
So, if you feel like a challenge we hope to see you at the Wolfhound Pub, Haeundae at 1pm this Saturday January 28th. We will make our way to the beach from there and take the plunge together. Afterwards we'll head back to the pub for a well earned drink while we regain the feeling in our fingers and toes. We do recommend you bring warm clothes to change into once you emerge from the icy water.
For more information please check out the event page on Facebook.