Finland has some of the world’s most breathtaking landscapes. And breathtaking activities, if you follow in the footsteps of Finnish photographer Markku Lahdesmaki.
In his exceptional photo series Avanto (meaning “hole in the ice” in Finnish), Lahdesmaki captured the perfect way to ring in the cold weather while visiting the Land of the Thousand Lakes—plunging into the freezing water! Ok, so it’s not for everybody but this Finnish practice has been known to have great health benefits, such as boosting your immune system, alleviating stress and relieving pain.
Markku told us about his experience shooting the series.
“I was born in Finland and we go back to my homeland usually every summer and for Christmas. One Christmas when the holidays were over, I was driving around in search for interesting places to take pictures. There is a beautiful swimming place and small beach in the lake side in the city of Tampere. The lake is called Näsijärvi.
“In Rauhaniemi Kansankylpylä (Rauhaniemi People’s Spa) there is an old sauna building and a little 2-meter high diving tower. In the summertime it is full of people enjoying sunbathing, ice-cream, coffee and swimming in the fresh lake water.
“I was walking toward the swimming area and suddenly I noticed that there were people over there. When I got closer I noticed that they were almost naked and walking toward the frozen lake. I was expecting to find a quiet, snowy and frozen beach and lake, but instead I found many people in their swimming suits and speedos walking to the hole in the ice and then back to the outside sitting area and sauna. I got my camera and started taking photos.”
“In all my years in Finland, it never even came to my mind to try ice swimming. But it was the promise I made with the people I was taking pictures of that I would try it myself.
“When I was walking towards the hole in the ice I was probably thinking OMG this is crazy. I need to go. I can’t turn back. Just walk, walk….
“When I reached the water and got in, I felt that I couldn’t breath, my heart stopped, frozen electric shocks surrounded my body. After just a few seconds in the water, I stepped out.
“After that the cold winter air was feeling very pleasant. The temperature outside was - 24C/-11 F. After the plunge I was taking a moment with some other Finns outside in the cold afternoon. All wearing just swimming suits and a few of them a strange head wear so your hair does not freeze I guess. It was a bit of a surreal moment.
“Feeling of pleasure after the plunge was strong and urge me to do it again. I did it maybe six times. Between the plunges, a very hot sauna, of course.”
Compiled by Rachel Ruiz; All Photography © Markku Lahdesmaki.
Want to experience this exhilarating rush for yourself? Directions for getting to Lake Näsijärvi for ice swimming (by bus) are on the website.
Rachel Ruiz-Oakley is the Managing Editor of Slide Night.