About my winter swimming
I swim nearly 5 days a week, 12 months a year in the estuaries of Maine and New Hampshire. When I moved to this area people were shocked in the dead of winter to see footprints leading from the creek, up the street directly to my house. Folks still stop their cars and try to figure out who or what I am. A seal? River monster? Some have called the police.
My whole life I dwelled along rivers. Winter swimming is something that didn’t just happen overnight. This science experiment first began in the Lamprey River in Newmarket, New Hampshire, years ago. Just one early autumn rain or cold night would destroy an entire season of joyful swimming. I am not genetically altered, but this way of life is the result of years of experimentation and study.
Winter scuba and winter surfing…. yes, but swimming in ice water? … No. I had to learn to adapt my body and gear to the near frozen New England ocean waters so the science experiment continued. The ocean waters in Maine are perhaps the coldest waters to swim in the lower 48 states. I got so good at the experiment that I was swimming along sheets of ice, but it caused some controversy because traffic was stopping on bridges to check out an unusual sight. “is that a rogue seal? a new form of terrorism?”
photo by Deb Cram
I had to legitimize my sport so in January of 2008 I decided that I would swim from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to the Isles of Shoals to raise money for the Krempel’s Brain Injury Foundation and Stepping Stones of Portsmouth. I was met with disbelief, but after four and a half hours fighting strong currents in 39 degree water with an air temperature of 9 degrees Fahrenheit, I became the first to make the 6 mile swim in 39 degree water. The money came after I made the swim and I raised $17,000 for the charity.
That was my first swim for charity. The ‘Creekman Swims for Charity’ became an annual event. So far I have done winter swims for causes such as brain injury rehabilitation, hospice, the preservation of lighthouses, hungry and malnourished children and this year……. the Center for Wildlife.
Gary Reaches Goal! The first human to swim to the Isles of Shoals in winter.