"A Kind of Meditation"

by Tamara Markovic

Each morning before dawn, regardless of the weather, winter swimmers gather along the shores of Aarhus, in Denmark. For most, the embrace of the cold water is a daily routine.

"You have to care about how your body feels. I can be in the water for a longer time, the cold is not a problem. I feel very good when I go in the water. I feel the cold, but kind of pleasant. Your body has to be used to the cold. When people come up (out of the water) too quickly, their body never gets used to being in the cold water. So they feel colder.

They don't give the body a chance to feel how it really is to be in the water."

Grethe Lauritsen, 75 years old, has been winter swimming for the past 21 years.

Grethe Lauritsen, winter swimming at the Ballehage beach, Aarhus.

"A friend and I came here to the beach in summertime. She showed me and I found it very nice. So I came with her sometimes, and then I came here alone. This year she died of cancer. She is still here for me."

Birthe Lau, 80 years old, has been winter swimming for the past 8-9 years.

Birthe Lau, decending into the water from the pier at Ballehage beach, Aarhus.

"Why go in the water?

It makes you feel your body. Sometimes it really feels cold, and you think "Why am I doing this?", but when you come up again, you know why. Because you can feel your body on another dimension. You can feel the prickles in the whole body, and you will feel that you are alive. In a good way."

Brian York, 52 years old, winter swimmer for the past 6 years.

"It's may be cold, but when you get up you feel pricking. You feel the blood. It can be very cold when you get out.

I am never sick. I have never been sick this year or last year. I love the sea, I love the trees, I love the nature here, I love the silence. Just sit and look at the sea. Meditation. Not think about anything else, just sit and enjoy, meditate."

Dorthe Andersen, 55 years old, has been a winter swimmer for 10 years.

The forested landscape at Ballehage beach / Dorthe Andersen, winter swimmer.
Vibeke Rasmussen, just out of the water on a frosty morning at Ballehage beach, Aarhus.

"It makes you feel good. It's very difficult to be sad when you are down here. Doesn't matter if it's good or bad weather, it's just being here is making you happy. I don't believe you can come here if you have had a sad day, and come down here and keep on being sad. You can't do that. When you come down here, it makes you comfortable, it makes you happy." Brian York, winter swimmer for 6 years.

The beach at Ballehage is also used by kayakers and other visitors.

"For me it's the perfect way to start a day.

A friend talked me into it, who had been coming here for some time. The water was 15 degrees, and I thought I would never get warm again. But there was something in it that hit me. This is good. Then the first six or seven months, I was just coming down here once in a while. But then I started coming every day, almost.

It's good for my mental health. Yesterday, for example, I sat on that stone, just looking at the water. It's like meditation, almost. I could sit there for hours. It clears the mind. I don't know how to explain it." Henrik Buhr.

Henrik Buhr, 51, has been winter swimming for 2 years.
On a December morning, Henrik Buhr comes out of the sea while two visitors warm themselves with a hot drink.

Many thanks to the members of the Ballehage Winter Bathing Club, for their time, patience, kindness and hospitality.

Photography project by Tamara Marković, completed for the Photo 1 Fall Program at the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Aarhus, Denmark.

December 2016.

Created By
Tamara Markovic


Tamara Marković

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