Polar Bear or Penguin ?
Polar bears may wear ONLY a standard swimsuit ( non thermal, must not extend over the shoulders or below the knees ) and a single silicone, latex or fabric hat as well as goggles, noseclips and earplugs. NOTHING ELSE - No shoes, No boots, No gloves, No fancy hats, Nothing on your feet or hands or head except that already specified. Goggles must not enclose the nostrils.
Insulated swimsuits are NOT allowed.
Nothing on your feet.
No shoes, No gloves, No fancy hats.
Penguins may wear anything they wish.
There is NO inbetween level.
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…
Which level should I enter ?
If in doubt then enter one level above that which you feel comfortable at as you can always drop down a level as the challenge progresses but can't go up.
Arctic / Antarctic is the best one to aim for if you are undecided or if you are unsure.DO NOT enter Jedi / Ninja levels unless you are sure you can find water of the required temperature to complete the specified swims. The sea temperature in the UK rarely gets low enough to complete these levels unless you are in Scotland or the very far North of England so you will need to seek out fresh water swimming area ( fresh water gets colder than sea water in winter ) or travel. as the higher Jedi and Ninja levels are VERY onerous as they require you to swim a number of specified swims in water below 7 degrees - The UK sea temperature rarely falls below 7 degrees so to achieve these levels you will need to travel or find a fresh water swimming area which drops to the required temperature.
You can enter the Polar Bear Challenge and the Penguin Challenge separately as two different events.
If you want to challenge yourself for longer distances then you can enter Penguin to add the neoprene and get the distance / time in the water and then when your swim is finished you can strip off everything but the swimsuit to have a short dip to qualify as one of the shorter Polar Bear levels. Even if you just strip off the wetsuit before you exit the water and have a quick dunk that will be enough to qualify for Polar Bear Classic.
How do I verify my swims ?
You'll receive an email once a month with a link to an online form to send back to confirm you have done your swims. Other than for the Jedi / Ninja or Apprentice levels you do not need to send in any proof as it is an honesty challenge and you are only cheating yourself if you send in incorrect information. PLEASE NOTE - for Jedi / Ninja & apprentice swims at 7.00 degrees or less you will need to send in photographic evidence of the water temperature on TWO thermometers, Digital thermometers are recommended but you may use mercury thermometers as long as they both clearly show the temperature is BELOW the required specification N.B. the temperature MUST show on BOTH thermometers to be the required chilliness. If using the temperature on your watch that is more tricky as you will need to submerge the watch in your chosen body of water ( not in a bowl or bucket as that can influence the temperature ) for long enough for the temp to stabilise and take a pic of the temp whilst the watch is still submerged.
What are the Jedi Bear / Ninja Penguin specified swims ?
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 but not vice versa.
What if I am unable to complete my swims in a particular month due to illness or personal circumstances ? -
Each swimmer has a Joker card they may play to give them a pass for one calendar month if they are unable to complete all their swims and do not want to drop down to the appropriate level for the swims that have been completed. The Joker may be played only once is is non transferable to another swimmer.
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 ( generally unheated only - read on if yours is occasionally heated ) -
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.
Some lidos are partially heated i.e. the heating is on some of the time or the temperature is kept above a minimum level ( usually about 11 degrees ).
In this case the temperature when you swim must be no higher than the maximum UK natural sea or fresh water temperature at the time ( email me for more clarification if required ).
Because lidos are fresh water they are usually colder than the sea so a little heating may NOT be enough to STOP Polar Bear or Penguin swimming but it will vary from pool to pool.