Updated: Mar 13, 2022
If you want to find Dylan Friedmann on a cold, cold, Toronto winter’s morning, it’s quite easy in some ways. First get up before dawn, and then head down to the beach on Lake Ontario. She is the one in a bikini either doing yoga by the water at minus twenty Celsius air temperature, or actually in the water at zero Celsius, with a colourful toque on her head. She used that word in the podcast we recorded together in January, in the cold, cold, winter, and that took me straight back to a trip I made to Banff, Alberta, now three years ago. As I was leaving the hotel one morning, into a minus twenty kind of day, the concierge shouted “Where’s your toque! – Yes you – where’s your toque?” It was a bit direct, but meant with my welfare in mind. Yes me. Toque-less. I had forgotten it, left it behind – my woolen knitted hat, pronounced ‘touk’, hereabouts, French Canadian. You don’t go out without covering your head in those temperatures. Dylan Friedmann covers her head, but opens her body to the cold, cold water every day. Canadian media describe her as ‘This fierce woman’ - who swam or dipped (in deepest winter) in Lake Ontario every day of 2021. She is far from fierce in the podcast – fierce of spirit for sure, the kind of fierceness we need right now.
On that visit to Banff, I tried to see what it is like to expose my body for just a few minutes, to the cold, cold air. I managed five minutes of standing yoga at minus twenty, in my togs. I felt very happy with myself, until I saw a Chinese gentleman similarly attired, which is to say, just ten meters or so away, in swimming briefs, sitting cross-legged on the powder-snow. We talked afterwards – he did ten minutes every day; we bonded immediately. So it is with Dylan. She is in this Ten Minute Club, managing ten minutes in the ice water of Lake Ontario regardless of the air temperature, regardless of what the wind is doing. In January “when the ice-wind is bitter on the skin” – her words.
She is compelled to see the sunrise every single day. Her FOMO, her fear of missing out, is the fear of missing the sunrise over the water, summer or winter. She is a runner too, and one morning in the fall she was running along the waterfront, looking across Lake Ontario, which looked ‘so inviting’ to her. The water invited her and she accepted the invitation. And so the relationship began.
In the podcast, I learn how important it is to moisturize your face heavily against the cold, cold, water. To have your kit set out very precisely for changing after the dip. In the mere 19 seconds of ‘mitts-off’ time Dylan sometimes has to get pants on, top, coat, everything on and run back home and get ready for work. The importance of this preparation, most winter swimmers are aware of. But at the temperatures Dylan Friedmann often dips at, the preparation and timing are crucial.
So that is why Dylan Friedmann is an inspiration. That, and the fact that she undertook, January 1st, 2021, to swim (or dip) in Lake Ontario every single day of the year to raise money for a children’s charity, one which meets a very important need in this period now, let’s call it the Late-COVID19 Era. She had started daily swimming and dipping already in October 2020. She completed her daily swims in 2020, all 365 of them, and the relationship continues – on she swims and dips, even when she has to dig through the ice for water. She never forgets her toque.
Her fund-raiser continues – “it’s hard to be a teenager, harder than in my day” she says. Mental health issues have come to the fore with the pandemic, perhaps more so for adolescents than for many other people. This Canada-based charity, Kids Help Phone, offers a helpline to teenagers when they need it. These January temperatures are ones that stop most people going out; but in Dylan Freidman’s case, they get her out into the open, raising funds, raising awareness for mental health, and doing what makes her happy, what makes her strong, physically and mentally. May her relationship with Lake Ontario long continue and thrive. Do listen to the podcast - as well as compassion, Dylan Friedmann has a deep passion for the water.
Listen to the podcast here
A shout out to some of her many followers, including reservoirdoggs..; coldwatersociety; icewomen_community; mental health swims; coldwatercollective; the.farm.club; the coldwater community; covidicebath; irelandseadippers; James Paterson (whitehorse_combat); peti.goes.swim.