Ice swimmer waging her own cold war

University of Otago student Maddy Copeland, in training for the upcoming New Zealand Ice Swimming...
University of Otago student Maddy Copeland, in training for the upcoming New Zealand Ice Swimming Championships in Alexandra. Photo: supplied
As if Dunedin was not cold enough at this time of year, Maddy Copeland has taken to sitting in a tub filled with water and ice most mornings.

And on alternate days, she goes swimming in the toe-curling chilly waters of St Kilda Beach.

Her icy escapades are part of her training for the New Zealand Ice Swimming Championships at Alexandra Pool on July 10-13.

Over the past few months, the 19-year-old University of Otago law, Spanish and psychology student has been slowly building up to a level where she can sit in water below 5°C for up to 30 minutes.

"I freeze a lot of containers of water and then put it in the tub with me," Miss Copeland said..

"You get used to the shock, but it’s still freezing — it’s never going to feel warm.

"It takes a long time to build up to being in there for 30 minutes.

"It’s not like you can just go straight into an ice bath. I started with just four minutes."

While it was unpleasant in the water, she said the rush of endorphins that flooded her body when she got out, was worth it.

"You just feel so present and alive — you’re very aware of all the sensations that are going on.

"It does feel really good."

Miss Copeland cautioned people not to try it at home.

She said sitting in such frigid water for so long could be dangerous, and she was careful not to get hypothermia, which could be deadly.

"I’ve got quite good at listening to my body and I’ve looked at a lot of research and talked to a lot of people about it.

"So when I start shaking and it gets quite uncontrollable, that’s when I stop.

"I know when I’m passing my limit and that I need to be really careful.

"And if I’m going to really challenge myself, I always make sure that there’s someone there watching me."

At last year’s event at St Bathans, a woman was airlifted to Dunedin Hospital by rescue helicopter in a serious condition after being affected by the freezing water.

Miss Copeland said she was taking on the challenge to raise money for the Voices of Hope mental health charity.

"For me, it’s really personal because I had my own mental health journey and I watched a lot of the content from the charity.

"One of the women from Voices of Hope came to talk at my school and I read her book, and I got a lot of tools from her.

"She helped me keep going when I didn’t really want to.

"I want to support the incredible work that they do."

She said she had never done anything like this before and she was nervous about how her body would respond to swimming in such cold water.

"But you’ve got to put yourself out there, to make a difference.

"And it also helps me out with my own mental health, so it’s a bit of a double whammy."