For the past ten years or so, Joakim Lundqvist and Mikael Westerberg from Asfalt Nord & Bergvärme have been cutting the course for the annual winter swimming competition. The Winter Swim competition was, until this year, held in the Skellefteå river in the centre of Skellefteå, but now the event has been moved to Skelleftehamn.
In previous years it took just under a week to prepare the competition track, but the conditions in Skelleftehamn are different. The work takes about twice as long.
– In the city, we pushed the cut ice blocks under the existing ice. Then the blocks could slide towards the sea. That doesn't work here. There's no current, so we have to pick up all the ice blocks, says Joakim Lundqvist.
How much more work is that?
– It's a lot more work! You can see all the ice blocks there...
A short distance from the future competition area is what looks like a pile of dismantled igloos. There will be more blocks to come - there are still a few meters to cut before the 25-meter stretch is finished.
The fact that the water has no current also means that from time to time the ice-free area will freeze again.
To prevent this, pumps have been installed in the opening to bring the four-degree water from the bottom up to the surface, but a thin layer of ice and snow still forms in places. A mini-excavator and scrapers will be used to remove the debris.
In the city, the cleared area could sometimes freeze again, but this was rare.
– It happened when it was really cold, but the water there was always moving," says Joakim.82d85583-1d64-4ff1-9d67-4d433bd50212
Mikael Westerberg adds:
– When it froze, everything went to one end. Here the ice lies still and freezes. In the city, there was enough current so that all the ice was all at one end of the swimming area, which made it easier to clear.
Compared to previous years, there have been fewer people working on the course in Skelleftehamn.
– In the city we sometimes had four or five people, but here we've only had two the whole time. We'll probably have more people as the weekend approaches, as then there will be a wider variety of tasks to attend to, says Joakim.
How's it going so far?
– It is going well! We've done this so many times on the river, but this is a different environment, with its own challenges, and we're worried about running into bigger problems. Everything takes time. But it feels like we have the situation under control; we still have a few days left!
The Winter Swim runs from February 9 to 11.
The competition area is at Kurjoviken's Marina, Skelleftehamn.
Norran will live-stream the relays on Saturday, February 10, starting at 13:30. The broadcast will be available for viewing afterward.
The event is organized by the association "Mörkrets och kylans glada vänner" (The Happy Friends of the Dark and Cold) in collaboration with the International Winter Swimming Association, IWSA. On-site activities are conducted in partnership with the "Kustnära utveckling" association.