Jumping into icy water at freezing temperatures by own choice takes either a perfect physical condition or a certain amount of madness for granted. Yet we wonder how this guy obviously has lots of fun doing that, while simply watching him is giving us the chills. Or is it his own mischief that´s bringing this brave young man to laughter? We asked Hans Mitterer, the photographer of this image.

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© Hans Mitterer / Westend61

Hans, why does this man dive under ice voluntarily and in such a good mood? How did this picture arise?

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Hans Mitterer

Swimming has a long tradition here in Burghausen and the scene, which is active for generations now, has already produced world champions, world record holders and olympic athletes. The latest olympic athlete is Nicky Hetzer, whose father Stefan Hetzer is the most successful swimming coach of all times and trainer of Kirstin Otto for example.

This Stefan Hetzer together with his protégé Christof Wandratsch – a world-class open water swimmer – started a european ice swimming hype whose epicenter is Burghausen. This year in January the second german ice swimming championship took place right here. Well perceived by the international media it has been a contest gathering participants from 17 countries of 4 continents. Next year we will host the world championship and in Pyeongchang, ice swimming will become an olympic discipline.

This kind of sport extremely polarizes the viewer, everyone has a distinct opinion about it and it may not sound too surprising that the audience is rather large.

Inspired by the hype around this rather young sport, quite a few swimmers are open to making some fun and get crazy on images. Since I like to ice swim myself every now and then during wintertime, I was established in that scene right from the beginning. So it was quite simple to find someone for this image. I imagined it being a great motive with a man under a surface of ice and I think it turned out really well. If the man is actually smiling or if his face is simply distorted by the immense strain, is left to viewer.