How to avoid ice lacerations

I know this question will open me to ridicule.

The pools are currently all closed and the lakes are all proper frozen.
Until today I'd been swimming in the sea, albiet for increasingly short durations, but today there was a fine (1-3mm) layer of sea ice. Breaking it using breaststroke was fine and not anymore painful than the background cold pain associated with cold water.
When I got out to my surprise my forearms, upper arms , flanks and legs were covered in lacerations from the ice.

Other than the obvious solutions of 1. swimming somewhere else and 2. not swimming at all, does anyone have any tips on swim technique or other measures to mitigate cutting myself quite so much? I have tried a google search which netted no useful results

Much appreciated.



  • JSwimJSwim western Maryland, USSenior Member
    edited January 2021

    No ridicule... just awe! Stay safe.


    Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. --Neale Donald Walsch

  • LakeBaggerLakeBagger Central OregonSenior Member

    @WillM I’m going to echo the awe—I am so impressed... that is a very badass problem to have. Looking forward to seeing if anyone has any advice or has experienced something similar

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    I wonder if you could find some sort of plastic shielding like soccer shin guards that you could wear on your arms. Yes, you wouldn't be following MSF rules, but I think many people would overlook this skirting of the rules in your training session.

    Whoops! I re read your post and see that it's not just your arms that you are tearing to shreds. You are managing to wreck your entire body. Other than a wetsuit, I really don't see how you can protect. Maybe a kayak acting as an icebreaker in front of you would do the trick. If you can find a kayaker as insane as you are!

    And I also agree that you are experiencing a problem that I will never encounter.

  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    edited February 2021

    One possibility: pantyhose/tights on your legs, combined with carefully-cut pantyhose/tights on your arms and trunk. And maybe a suit with more coverage. If you buy pantyhose to match your skin tone, this solution may not merit a second glance.

    Never mind the title of that video. The uploader obviously accidentally typed “cute” instead of “badass”. :-)

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    I guess the answer you don't want to your posed question is: Don't swim in icy water. ;)


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • WillMWillM NorwayMember

    Thank you for the replies.

    Having started this thread two months ago I thought I would share my thoughts so that others need not replicate my mistake.

    The water in Oslo fjord is now up to 2 0C (350F) so ice will no longer be a problem this year.

    Why swim with sea ice at all?
    i) Due to COVID 19, training opportunities are limited here, as I am sure they are everywhere. Although it is impossible (for me at least) to do any meaningful technique, time or distance training, the psychological and physiological preparation now will hopefully facilitate training later in the season.
    ii a) Macho bullshit
    ii b) I do feel a sense of accomplishment having swam at least once and generally twice per week over the winter.

    How to swim in sea ice?
    i) If its sheet ice you will get cut, so I strongly suggest that you don´t.
    ii) If the floating ice or snow that has not yet formed sheets, swimming is possible, but be very aware of cold injury / hypothermia.

    How to avoid sea ice?
    i) Live in a place with a more hospitable climate or use a pool.
    ii) Look for exposed spots where the wind and wave action inhibits ice formation. This comes with the caveat that wind chill will obviously be increased.

    Safety is and should always be the number one priority.
    The additional danger of swimming in cold water is that if I get into trouble and someone attempts to rescue me they too may be endangered. The risk of causing harm to someone else because of my, at best, eccentric behaviour is unacceptable to me.
    Things to mitigate the risk:
    i) Swim in company.
    ii) Only swim in locations you have used previously and know the risks of.
    iii) Stay well within your limits.
    iv) Swim where you can exit the water at any point.

    Other than cutting myself on the ice once in January I have had an entirely problem free winter swimming.
    So, winter swimming yes. Ice swimming no. Lesson learnt.

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