Taking the plunge: Vermonter breaks world ice swimming records

Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 10:22 PM EST
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WESTMORE, Vt. (WCAX) - The snow doesn’t scream beach weather, but for a group in the Northeast Kingdom, it’s the perfect time to go for a dip.

“I’m really passionate and love swimming,” said Charlotte Brynn, a Stowe resident and competitive swimmer.

Brynn recently took home three gold medals in the World Ice Swimming Championship in France. She also broke two age-group world records. One in the 250-meter freestyle, and the other in the 500-meter freestyle. The average water temperature there? 37 degrees.

“I started five to six minutes and built over time, so in the world championship, my longest event was just under 17 minutes,” Brynn said.

She and friends Pam Ladds and Paula Yankauskas train together year-round in the Northeast Kingdom.

“You know if you’ve ever been a runner, the runner’s high, it’s like that, but it happens so fast,” Ladds said. “You feel strong and you are strong for doing it.”

Ice swimming also comes with some health benefits, like a heightened immune system, decreased inflammation and increased metabolism. Yankauskas says it helps her with osteoarthritis.

“Well it is crazy, but if you go slowly, go with people and learn from others, you can make it as safe as possible and it’s well worth doing,” Yankauskas said.

She and Brynn compete in the Kingdom Games Ice Swimming tournament, which happens every February. Organizer Phil White says it’s been growing in popularity. It started with a group of approximately 40 people. This year, they will welcome 180 swimmers from all over.

“One of the things that happened during the pandemic, I think, a lot of swimmers became cold water swimmers and they enjoyed the camaraderie,” White said.

White says it’s also a great activity for social distancing.

Brynn says ice swimming has brought her friends from all over the world and allows her to enjoy the beauty of Vermont.

“You may just find it gives you an extra itch in life and improves your focus and gives you one big smile every day,” Brynn said.