In Prague-Malá Strana, on Tuesday evening, the Czech Otužilecká Unie (Association of Cold Water Swimmers) kicked off the season of cold water swimming with a traditional event on the Čertovka canal. Under the Karlov Bridge, over fifty swimmers adorned with lights gathered and immersed themselves in the waters of the Vltava River.
The intrepid swimmers illuminated the evening surface of the Vltava River. The event attracted attention with its unique charm and drew spectators to witness the display of courage.
This year, fifty swimmers participated in the traditional event, an increase from the approximate forty participants of the previous year. Among the swimmers were individuals ranging from over seventy years old to as young as eighteen. They changed into their swimming attire right near the Charles Bridge. There, they adorned themselves with lights, exchanged banter, and took commemorative photos.
The first to take the plunge into the water, as is customary, was the chairman of the Czech Otužilecká Unie, Vladimír Komárek. Other swimmers followed suit. Each dive was accompanied by applause from onlookers, including passersby and tourists who observed the event from nearby bridges, often greeting the swimmers with enthusiastic “hello” salutations.
Komárek described the course of the swim, stating, “We will swim from here to the point where the Čertovka canal merges with the Vltava River, then we will swim towards the first pillar of the Karlov Bridge, turn around, and return along the same route.” However, the water level in the Čertovka canal is shallow, so the swimmers often traversed the initial part of the route by wading in the water rather than swimming. This did not dampen their spirits, as the event primarily symbolized a gathering of friends and a spectacle for the public.
The event was characterized by a warm and friendly atmosphere. Petr from Prague-Bohnice, who attended the event for the second time, remarked, “It is a heartwarming event. And above all, a wonderful group of people has come together.” He added that he did not particularly prepare for the event, as he has been cold water swimming for several years. “We just undressed, and the rest will take care of itself,” he joked.
Costume selection was considered necessary by Vlaďka, a swimmer from Strakonice who decorated herself with a green hat, evoking the image of a water nymph. She has been participating in cold water swimming for the past five years.
Tuesday’s temperature in the Czech Republic broke records, with daytime temperatures approaching the tropical thirties. “The weather is warmer today, almost like summer. A few years ago, the temperature was around 10 to 12 degrees, but today it is 16.3 degrees, an enjoyable water temperature,” Komárek assessed the conditions. He laughed, “It won’t be a complete test of endurance today; we are here mainly for enjoyment.”
Just before the start of the event, there was a heavy downpour and even some lightning, but they did not threaten the swimming activity.
“The conditions for cold water swimming are indeed unfavorable today. It is too warm, and the water is lukewarm. We will enjoy it nonetheless,” said Vlaďka optimistically.
Some cold water swimmers had gathered on Sunday to swim in the slightly more freezing Punkva River in the Moravian Karst region.
The illuminated gathering of cold water swimmers in Prague was conceived eight years ago by the chairman of the association, Komárek. “Years ago, I thought of swimming at night with lights. The first event was called Otužilecké Las Vegas and took place in Braní.