What are the Challenge levels ?
Polar Bear / Penguin Classic - dip, dunk, bob or otherwise 'Just Get In; up to your shoulders twice a month from 1 November to 31 March.
Polar Bear / Penguin Silver - swim 250 metres twice a month from 1 November to 31 March.
Polar Bear / Penguin Gold - swim 1000 metres each month to include at least 250 metres twice a month from 1 November to 31 March.
Arctic Bear / Antarctic Penguin -swim 3000 metres each month to include 250 metres twice a month from 1 November to 31 March
Jedi Bear Apprentice / Ninja Penguin Apprentice - swim 3000 metres each month to include 250 metres twice a month from 1 November to 31 March and also a number of specified swims.
Jedi Bear / Ninja Penguin - swim 3000 metres each month to include 250 metres twice a month from 1 November to 31 March and also a number of specified swims.
When you enter – choose your Challenge – remember that during the course of the Challenge you may go down through the levels but not up. You may swap from Polar Bear to Penguin at any time
E.g. you can enter as Gold, Arctic or Jedi and slide down through Silver and Classic all the way to Penguin if the going gets tough. But you can’t enter as Classic and then upgrade to Gold…
What are the Jedi Bear / Ninja Penguin specified swims ?
Jedi & Ninja & Apprentice levels
1500 metres at 9 degrees or less
2000 metres at 9 degrees or less
1250 metres at 8 degrees or less
1750 metres at 8 degrees or less
1000 metres at 7 degrees or less
1500 metres at 7 degrees or less
750 metres at 6 degrees or less
1250 metres at 6 degrees or less
450 metres at 5 degrees or less
1000 metres at 5 degrees or less
NB - 1. The specified swims can be included in the 3000 metres monthly total
NB - 2. There must be a minimum of 24 hours between each of the specified swims.
IMPORTANT NOTE FOR JEDI BEARS / NINJA PENGUINS.
This is an extreme challenge which should only be attempted by experienced cold water swimmers and a medical check up is advised.
UK temperatures may not get low enough to complete the challenge in the UK so some travel at your own expense may be necessary.
Several of the Jedi swims are individual qualifying swims for an Ice Mile attempt under IISA rules. Please refer to the IISA website for more information on Ice Miles https://www.internationaliceswimming.com/
Can I change my Challenge level ? -
Once the Challenge starts on November 1st you can slide down the scale if you wish but you can’t go up. So you can aim for Jedi and slide down to Arctic, Gold, Silver, Classic. You may swap from Polar Bear to Penguin at any time.
Sea Swimming -
Swimming in the sea is fine but make sure you're not taking advantage of the current/tide. If swimming with the tide then you need to swim as much distance with the tide as you do against it. The sea is warmer than fresh water in the winter.
However if you're swimming on slack tide half an hour either side of the top of the tide then there will be minimal current so that's ok to count as a one way ...
Lake Swimming -
Lake swimming is fine. There's not normally any current to be aware of. Fresh water lakes will be colder than the sea in winter
River Swimming -
Make sure you're not taking advantage of the current/tide. If swimming with the tide then you need to swim as much distance with the tide as you do against it. Fresh water will be cooler than the sea. Some rivers that have strong currents may not be suitable for Polar Bear Challenge swims.
Lido Swimming ( unheated only ) -
Similar to lake swimming lidos are usually colder than the sea in winter. You don't need to worry about any currents or tides but to prevent unfair advantage by turns pushing off the wall you are not allowed to touch the wall or bottom of the pool at any time during your swim unless your lido is 50 metres or more in length.
Can I count more than one swim a day ?
Yes you can unless you are a Jedi Bear so you have to leave at least 24 hours between each specified swim.
You must exit the water after each swim and spend at least 10 minutes on dry land between swims for them to count as separate swims.
What can I wear ?
Polar Bear Challenge is run under the same clothing rules as the Channel Swimming Association and the International Ice Swimming Association which means you can only wear one swimsuit with no thermal properties, a silicone or latex swimhat ( no bubble or fancy hats ) and noseclips and earplugs as required. Swimwear must not extend beyond the shoulders or beyond the knees.
If you have a medical condition that requires you to wear a support or use a float then that may be allowed as long as it gives you no undue assistance and you must have the use of the equipment pre approved by MamaBear. Neoprene or any heat retaining fabric is not allowed under any circumstances.
How do I report my progress ?
You need to record your swims and there is an online form to complete to update your progress.
There is also a facebook group Polar Bear Challenge 2018/19 to share pics and stories and embrace our icy adventures.
How do I measure my distance?
It's an honesty challenge so it's up to you and your conscience to swim the required distance.
You can measure by using a Garmin or similar or by tracking your path on Google Earth or by using known landmarks to track distance.
If all else fails the swim your desired distance in a pool ( no tumble turns or energetic pushing off the wall ) and the add 25% to the time it took you and swim for that time in open water for the PBS. (25% allows for the extra difficulty you will encounter from the cold and by being in open water ).
But it's cold !!
The water is still relatively warm in November and if you just keep getting in regularly you will acclimitise - however if you do get to the point where it's not fun anymore then you can drop down through the challenges.
The water is usually coldest in late January / February when it can drop below 5 degrees however different places can vary by 3 or 4 degrees and in the winter the sea will be warmer than freshwater.
I have sensitive feet and can't walk on the beach/shingle/jetty/stones/rocks........?
It's all about the swimming - not the getting on and out so you are allowed to wear something on your feet to enter the water but must take them off and chuck them back on the beach or attach them to you or put them in a tow float for the duration of the swim - then put them back on to exit the water.....
What about my ears ? I get earache in the cold....
Swimmers Ear and Surfers Ear are recognised conditions - try earplugs. Earplugs are allowed under Polar Bear rules.
How do I get to 5K ?
November and December usually have warmer water temperatures than January to March.
Suggested targets -
November 2000 metres
December 1500 metres
January 500 metres ( 2 x 250 same as Silver )
February 500 metres ( 2 x 250 same as Silver )
March 500 metres ( 2 x 250 same as Silver )
That makes 5K 🙂
I'm not comfortable in just a cossie - I'd rather cover up a bit .....
It's all about the swimming - not the getting on and out so you are allowed to wear whatever you like to enter the water but can only wear a cossie, goggles. single hat, noseclips & earplugs for the duration of the actual swim so chuck your accessories back on the beach or attach them to you or put them in a tow float for the duration of the swim - then put them back on to exit the water.....
I've done fine through November & December but I'm feeling the cold now - How do I get through it ?
There's lots of support and advice available on the facebook group - nobody's a superhero - we all feel the cold.......MamaBear will give you lots of hints to help you ( learned through cold, hard experience !! ).
I'm swimming outside of the UK - does that count for Polar Bear / PenguinChallenge?
For swims taking place outside of the UK the water temperature must be at the same number of whole degrees as the current maximum outdoor natural water temperature in the UK ;
max UK water temperature 11 - all overseas swims must be below 12 degrees.
What do I get when I complete the Challenge ?
Everybody who completes their nominated Challenge gets a badge and certificate.