What our family stumbled upon during a trip to the scandinavian countries.
In the little town of Vedbaek, which is on the east coast of Denmark a few miles north of Copenhagen, there's a small strip of beach owned by the Viking Club. It's not much of a beach: maybe 10 feet of sand and a short pier with 3 sets of stairs going into the water. The water is fast moving, wavy, cold, and full of rocks. The beach is very windy and cold all year - this is the Oresund, right by the North Sea.
The kids ran along the beach, and then we sat down for lunch in the Paa Havnen Restaurant next to the Viking Club. The restaurant had beautiful picture windows overlooking the sea, the beach, and the pier. Very picturesque.
The kids ordered fish meatballs and potatos, and we had smorgesbrod - the Danish word for little open faced sandwiches. Our brod came topped with fish: smoked salmon, herring with anise, herring with curry, and pickled herring (notice a theme here? We've eaten so much herring in Scandinavia).
Halfway through the meal, everybody perked up and started pointing out the window. Two ladies, bundled up in their winter coats, had walked to the end of the pier. We watched them, and we also watched other people hurry outside with their cameras. Next thing you know, one of the ladies took off all her clothes and hopped into the water. She had to use a rope to climb back out. She grabbed a towel, dried off, and got dressed. Then the other lady stripped down, climbed in, and swam for a couple strokes before climbing back out. All told, the two ladies got 30 seconds of seawater exposure - which meant 90 seconds of northern wind exposure, and 60 seconds of camera exposure.
We asked the waitress if this was normal behavior for the residents of Vedbaek, and she told us about the Viking Club: they have 250 members who dip in the sea every morning and evening, every day of the year. They claim that it keeps their muscles firm and their skin wrinkle-free.
The waitress told us that each morning, they watch 80 and 90 year old people walk in their bathrobes and slippers down the streets, across the beach, and onto the pier, where they strip, dunk, rewrap, and head home for their morning coffee. She told us that this dunking was very popular, but the bartender just shook his head and said, "crazy Danish Vikings - they have special Viking fat that protects them."
After we were done eating, Irina, Alison, and Holly braved the cold winds and walked out to the end of the pier. Again everybody perked up, started pointing, and got their cameras ready. But they were disappointed: the girls came back fully dressed and dry.
In Russia every morning, Irina's dad pours three buckets of freezing cold water over his head while he stands in the snow and ice. Maybe he's also part Viking: Russia is named for the red haired Vikings who formed a colony there a thousand years ago. And Irina now wants us to start jumping off our dock every day when we get back home, but I don't know: I'm only one quarter Danish, and I'm not sure that's enough Viking fat to protect me.