The Happiest People In the World Winter Swim, So We Should Too

I took a dip in the ocean last Sunday. As one would guess, it was quite cold. The temperature read 41 degrees. It was windy. I loved it.

Artist Riitta Ikonen is the organizer of Sea Changes, the Rockaway winter swim initiative I participated in. Sea Changes is part of a global program curated by FLOCK to connect friends, family, community and strangers during our global pause. It is offered with support from the arts and cultural organization, Nordic Culture Fund and Nordic Culture Point, a cultural arts grant program. The FLOCK website reads:

“Ikonen started regular winter swimming in 2018 as part of a pact to connect with her collaborators across the Atlantic. During the global pause, the surf at Rockaway Peninsula is as near as Ikonen has been able to get to her Nordic roots. By setting just a date and a time: 2 PM on Sundays, Ikonen invites individuals worldwide to metaphorically swim together at the edges of the same water. Such mental and physical training is conceived as a way to connect with one another, with known or unknown neighbours, beach creatures, and the weather to challenge one’s personal limits.”

Riitta (left), Rob (right)

I became friends with Riitta and her wife Elisa through a mutual friend. I watched from the sand the first time I was invited to the event.  When everyone came running back to shore, invigorated and cheering, I knew I had to join the following week. Riitta was the last out of the water. She floated calmly for about a minute in the wintry sea. Riitta is Finnish! So that explains her adaptation. Ice swimming is very common among the happiest people in the world.

My goal is to winter swim every Sunday. I felt awake and free! All are welcome to join – swimming or spectating. No your limits and take personal responsibility! Meet on the beach at 91st Street ever Sunday at 2pm until May. Or plunge at a body of water near you and share your swim videos and photos to @seachanges_rockaways on instagram or email mail[at]

Sea Changes is one of many creative ventures Riitta Ikonen is involved with. She is a visual artist. Riitta and her artist partner across the globe, Karoline Hjorth have a new book slated for spring 2021. It’s called Eyes As Big As Plates. The book is a collection of living sculptures captured on analog film, resulting in stunning photographic works. This project is in its 10th year of exploration. It began as an imaginative study of Nordic folklore. It has transformed into a study of modern human’s connection to nature. For more information on Riitta’s artistry visit

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tagged in rockaway, winter