What does it mean to swim like a Viking?
What does it mean to swim like a Viking? Danish viking swimming clubs are places for the practice of year round nude swimming and sauna rituals. Water temperatures range from 34.5F (January) to 66.6F (July). The Jomsborg “VikingeKlubben,” a club for all season swimming in Aarhus, Denmark was founded in 1933. Each year the club has only accepted 9500 members.
Jacob Bundsgaard, mayor of Aarhus and a member of this club explains, “There is a very integrated symbiosis between the city and the sea. This is also a way of connecting to your roots and to nature. In Denmark, it’s called Viking Swimming. So, it’s also a connection to our history.”
Due to immense popularity, last year the club expanded to meet growing demand. The Jomsborg Club, like its sister clubs across Denmark, has an extensive set of safety and behavioral rules. However, the first rule reads: We greet each other, take care of each other and ask each other for help and advice. There is also a “no photography” rule within the club in my city.
I am a semi-shy American photographic artist and, most definitely, not a Viking. Yet, I use my camera to enter situations that make me curious or, sometimes, even frighten me. So, when I discovered a club for winter swimming in Aarhus, Denmark, I was intrigued by quiet concentration of people as they enter the icy water and the challenge of how to capture it.
On the day I joined the Danish winter bathing club, the sea was churning and tinged to a deep red. Shivering from the freezing air and separated from all comforts including my devices, my hand instinctively reached for my camera. Instead, I reluctantly climbed the ladder down into the sea.
Inside the club, I follow the rules and lock my devices away. But, when I leave the club, all of my senses are sharply attuned to every aspect of my surroundings: color, smell, landscape, texture, temperature, light and even the Danish language. I am repeatedly drawn to capture the stark beauty of the Kattegat Sea. Outside the club, I use other swimming areas to photograph the subtle shifts of season and atmosphere.
The water operates as a natural conduit for light and reflection. I am fascinated with both the physical and visual dynamics of the experience at this edge… at the point of ingress and egress… at that transition from viewed to lived experience.
Entering the water blurs the demarcation between a physical passage and a metaphysical pathway. Opaque. Transparent. Translucent. The point of transition from land to water opens me to a different level of reflexivity.
Leaving my devices behind in order to experience Viking swimming has renewed my introspection about attention, physicality, and mobility in our current media landscape. I have accepted this subtle invitation to recalibrate my relationship with digital devices.
(Sarah Schorr lives, works and swims in and around Aarhus, Denmark. Discover more about Sarah’s the Fluid Boundaries project here.)