Artic Swimming in Norway

I’m a little too young to have a ‘bucket list’ and that’s probably for the best as I discovered last week. Before I set off to Turku almost 3 months ago, while I had thought about meeting Santa Claus and hopefully getting a glimpse of the Northern Lights, driving over the Norwegian border in Finnish Lapland or swimming in the Arctic Ocean were things which had never crossed my mind. Nevertheless ‘having a sauna at the edge of a snow-lined beach before running into the Arctic Ocean’ sounds like something that could easily occupy a line on even the most extravagant bucket list.

Last week some of my adopted Turku family and I (probably one of the most peculiar families you could ever conceive – 11 students from 9 different countries) headed to the ski resort of Saariselkä in northern Lapland. Despite the sighs which an additional 5 hour bus journey (on top of a 14+ hour bus ‘expedition’ to our Lapland base in Saariselkä) to Norway initial drew, I sincerely doubt anybody left the small village of Bugøynes in Finnmark disappointed.

Bugøynes, 500km north of the Arctic Circle, is quoted – by the pillar of reliability that is Wikipedia – as having 230 inhabitants (according to a local this is likely a gross overestimation for the winter months). And while this idyllic seaside lacks a tourist office, it boasts a post-office, two small grocery shops and a café that seemed to rely, at least during the winter months, on brave Artic swimmers.

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Propped about 50 meters from the beach are 3 wooden huts: 2 changing rooms and a centrally located wood-fire sauna. We took some time to warm up and mentally prepare for what was the longest 50 meters of our lives and went for a swim in the clear and ice-free (thanks to warm currents originating from the Gulf Stream) waters. And after returning to the sauna – the capacity of which had at least doubled with frozen adventure seekers desperately trying to get warm – we somehow convinced ourselves to do it all again!

Text and photo: Niall Burke

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