Barbara Maregele

MIND over matter is what three city men are out to practise when they swim in water colder than 1°C in an extreme swimming competition in Siberia.

Ram Barkai, 55, from Hout Bay, Kieron Palframan, 38, from Constantia, and Ryan Stramrood, 39, from Newlands, are heading to Tyumen, Siberia, in two weeks to take part in the Russian Winter Swimming Championships on December 15 and 16.

The trio have been participating in extreme cold water swimming challenges for the past five years and have swum in water as cold as 1.7°C, but want to tackle a challenge that is at another level.

“To train, we all try to swim 3km in a pool daily and swim at Camps Bay every Sunday morning, but the most important part is training your mind to overcome the cold and windy conditions,” Barkai said after a swim at Big Bay yesterday.

“There are few places in the world that have water as cold as 9°C on a beautiful summer’s day. This makes Cape Town a unique place for training in cold water all year around.”

The championships are expected to take place in a large river where a 25-metre hole will have been cut in the ice. The first day consists of a 15m swim in water below 1°C. The next day, the group hope to push their threshold by swimming 1km.

Barkai said that despite participating in numerous local extreme cold water swimming competitions, they were unsure what to expect as they would be going up against some of the world’s best extreme sports swimmers.

“A few years ago we made contact with Russia about being involved in its extreme ice swimming,” he said.

“We’ve never been in this situation before, so we’ll see what happens.”

Barkai said members of the group often gave motivational talks at schools and trained children who did not have access to pools.

“We are dedicating the Siberia swim to our SEAL swimming trust, where proceeds go towards the development of our programmes.”

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