Ice Maiden: Go harder, go smarter, go further, just go

Roxy van Eyk on dry land. Photos: Supplied.

Roxy van Eyk on dry land. Photos: Supplied.

Brave Roxy van Eyk. While the rest of Melkbosstrand are cosying up to their heaters the 27-year-old ice swimmer is gearing up for her most arduous swim yet. In August Roxy will take part in an ice water swim in Lesotho in waters that are predicted to be 0º, waters that are currently covered by a thin layer of ice.

“Bring it on,” she says on social media. And to this journalist, “It is a mental fight. “One has to fight the negatives.” In spite of developing epilepsy at the age of five, this Melkbosstrander has never allowed obstacles to hold her back. “It is a mental fight; one has to fight all the negatives. The little voice in my head saying ‘you can’t to this. You should be on the couch.’”

Roxy pushing herself to her limits.

“Go harder, go smarter, go further, just go.”

Roxy grew up in Fish Hoek, a water baby… She remembers going to the beach with her mom and seeing other kids go off to do life saver training. She wanted to be a life saver too, but her mom was worried because she had epilepsy. The coach promised to keep an eye on Roxy and the rest is history, one can say. She is a swimming instructor and life saver, a local legend who throws ice into the swimming pool in order to train.

The ice water pool in Lesotho.

The ice water pool in Lesotho.

Ice, ice, ice
It’s all true. As part of her training Roxy takes a weekly ice bath. She runs a cold bath that she chills down further by adding seven to eight bags of ice. And note that she immerses her whole body in the icy water. Ordinary training consists of two weekly swimming sessions in the pool at the gym in order to build speed, and two swimming sessions in the ocean. From July she will be training more intensely and will swim six times a week. She swims for periods of 45 minutes saying, “I don’t swim longer in case of hypothermia.”

There is a consolation in extreme cold. Roxy says she finds it “easier to swim in those very cold conditions because your whole body goes numb.” The Lesotho swim is going to be this ice maiden’s biggest test yet. In 2011 she swam in water in Fraserburg that was 3.4º. A swim the following year, again in Fraserburg, was cancelled because the water was not cold enough. No ice water swimming could take place in 2013 and 2014 because of a lack of sponsorship. A 2015 swim at Matroosberg was not considered cold enough to qualify as an ice water swim as the water was 6º, which was a degree too warm to be considered an ice water swim.

One suspects that an ice water swimmer needs to have ice in her veins. Handy tip in case you ever go ice water swimming. Roxy inserts a tampon to prevent the icy water entering her cavities.

Dramatic aftermath

After an ice swim Roxy's body can take longer than an hour to regain its core temperature.

Swaddled like a baby after an ice water swim.

The aftermath of an ice water swim is dramatic. Roxy explains, “You need support coming out of the dam. Normally a hand is enough. Someone then walks you to the medical tent and helps you to undress as you will start shivering. The swimmer will undress and put on layers of clothing – track suit pants, vest, a top, a hoodie, over this a onesie, socks and shoes. The swimmer will also be wrapped in blankets and given hot water bottles. Once the doctor is happy with your core temperature you may leave.”



In August Roxy will swim 1 kilometres in ice water in a man-made dam at the Afriski Mountain Resort in Lesotho. Recent footage showed it to be an alpine world of white snow. By August it will be even colder. It is the afterglow that makes it all worth while. Knowing that you overcame your inner voice, knowing that you overcame the trials. Knowing that you overcame the limitations implied by epilepsy. “It is awesome,” Roxy says warmly.

You can follow Roxy van Eyk’s ice swimming career on her Facebook page.



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