While we're at New Year parties, Dutch 'iceman' will be chilling

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 December, 2010, 12:00am

Anyone who fears the icy blast of the winter monsoon should talk to Wim Hof.

He holds the Guinness world record for immersion in ice - one hour and 44 minutes set this year - and he plans to extend that by six minutes tomorrow.

'I feel OK,' the 51-year-old Dutch 'Iceman' said yesterday after emerging from a demonstration in a pool of ice cubes. 'I just like doing it.'

He will make his new record attempt during a public party and countdown to the New Year on New Year's Eve at Mody Road Garden in Tsim Sha Tsui East.

His chilling feats are not limited to dips in ice. He holds other world records including the fastest barefoot run on ice, highest climb on Mount Everest in shorts and longest swim under ice at the North Pole wearing only bathing trunks.

Hof discovered his special ability 20 years ago when he was strolling in a park one day and saw a pool of cold water. 'I was attracted by it, so I got in and it felt good. I went back the next day,' he said.

After his first dip which lasted 30 seconds, he repeated the ice bath every day and trained himself by doing respiratory exercises. He also practises an ancient Tibetan yogic technique called tummo that generates inner body heat.

Though he possesses an extraordinary ability, his body functions much the same as any healthy normal person. During a check yesterday before his ice dip, his body temperature was 37 degrees Celsius and his heart was beating at 60 times a minute.

Dr Betty Kwan Ka-mei, who was invited to monitor the event, warned that a drop in Hof's body temperature below 35 degrees could see him suffer hypothermia, which causes mental confusion, slow heartbeat and irregular blood circulation - and ultimately death. If he became hypothermic he would need to be stopped because he wouldn't know what he was doing, she said.

However, Hof, a father of five, continues his frigid pursuits, despite his family's worries. 'They think I'm crazy,' he said, but he added that family members supported him, at least when he was confident about his attempts.

He said he met his biggest challenge when he was swimming under metre-thick ice in the Arctic circle. His goggles froze, meaning he could not find his way to a hole in the ice. He was saved by a diver accompanying him as a safeguard against such an eventuality.

Hof said he hoped that his attempts to endure extreme cold would raise awareness of environmental protection and global warming.

'It's important that our next generation can live in a world that has a proper balance between cold and warm,' he said.

Cool customer

Hof ran 42.2km inside the Arctic circle in Finland, in shorts and sandals, in temperatures close to: -20 degrees Celsius