EXCLUSIVE: The record-breaking ‘Ice Mermaid’ who swims the world’s coldest and most dangerous waters

Bárbara Hernández Huerta is aiming to swim the seven oceans and already has a host of ice swimming achievements to her name (Image: dryrobe)

EXCLUSIVE: Bárbara Hernández Huerta has achieved some of the most incredible feats in ice swimming but is already well on her way to completing another set of mind-boggling challenges

After 12 hours and 18 minutes swimming in painfully freezing conditions, Bárbara Hernández Huerta had turned blue.

The Chilean marathon and ice swimmer - nicknamed ‘The Ice Mermaid’ - had just completed the most difficult challenge of her career to date. At the end of last month she swam the North Channel between Northern Ireland and Scotland - a distance of 35km, or around 21 miles - as part of a wider challenge to swim the seven oceans.

This crazy and legendary challenge is not for the faint of heart, but if anyone is going to achieve it then it will be Hernández. She has already achieved some incredible things in her career, becoming the first Latin American swimmer to be crowned a world champion ice swimmer and being ranked number one in the world for three consecutive seasons by the International Winter Swimming Association.

She also has a number of world records to her name including becoming the first person to swim three nautical miles (5.5km) between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and completing the first ocean mile in 15 minutes and three seconds.

While they are all mammoth sporting feats, it was last month’s North Channel swim that really tested the Chilean more than ever before.

“I think the North Channel was the most difficult swim I have ever done,” the 36-year-old told Mirror Sport. “In the beginning it was amazing, so warm with the water but then - two or three hours later - the weather changed a lot and it was so cold. The water was at 12C for 12 hours. It was crazy and I was blue!”

The legendary Oceans Seven challenge that Hernández has set herself is is one that just a few have completed, and it’s easy to see why when you look at what it entails.

It includes the North Channel, the Cook Strait, the Moloka’i Channel, the English Channel, the Catalina Channel, the Tsugaru Strait and the Strait of Gibraltar. Combine all of those together and you’re looking at a distance of around 127 miles.

That demonstrates just what a phenomenal athlete Hernández is, after she first turned her attention to ice swimming roughly six years ago after swimming in normal conditions since she was a child. That very first swim took place at the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina and she has been hooked ever since.

“I don’t know if we were crazy but at the same time it was amazing.The nature, the cold, the challenge - that is the best part of my sport,” said the ambassador for dryrobe®, the world’s most advanced change robe.

“I enjoy the physical nature. You need to be prepared and you need to be focused on your challenge and on you. Not on the other swimmers, or your medal. That’s even better I think. But the best part is the nature and the challenge.”

"You need to be prepared for the hypothermia because that is the worst part of our sport"

Without stating the obvious, ice swimming is an extreme sport and Hernández’s training is crucial in keeping her safe. While many of us are able to swim or sample open water swimming in our lives, what Hernández does is world’s away.

“The training is really important,” she explained. “I think the most important part is - why are you swimming? Do you want to swim for yourself, do you want to swim competitively or just enjoy? You need to be sure about that before you swim and of course you need to swim in a safe space and with the right conditions.

“At first you need to swim short times, maybe one minute or two - that’s ok - and then you can dream big. You need to be prepared for the hypothermia because that is the worst part of our sport.

“I work with my dryrobe, my jacket, before because it helps me to be warm before my swim. After my swim I need to just be warm with my jacket and you need to drink warm liquids like tea or hot chocolate.”

"I need to communicate what is the real meaning for these swims and these goals"

Juggling life as a psychologist on top of her sporting endeavours, life can understandably get very busy for the Chilean. But, while she continues her crazy ambitions - a planned record-breaking swim in the Antarctic is also on the agenda in the near future - she is driven to inspire women in sport and to show others that your dreams are never too big.

“For us in South America it’s very difficult,” she said. “It’s very expensive, we need to train a lot and, compared to other countries, the sport support is very poor.

“With all these things my message is you can dream big. You can have big dreams, you can try your dreams, you can have a very humble family and you can still get your goals.”

She added: “It’s a very hard question because I try to be [a role model]. I try to be visible for the young woman, or the oldest, for them to see or to learn.

“I am a psychologist and I love to give a free talk to everybody in Latin America or even in other parts of the world. I need to communicate what is the real meaning for these swims and these goals.

“It’s not the medal and, of course, it’s not the money! But it’s my way to say to other people ‘dream big, try your goals and try and fight’.”

Bárbara Hernández is a world record ice swimmer and an ambassador for dryrobe , the world’s most advanced change robe

By Alasdair Hooper

SOURCE https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/other-sports/barbara-hernandez-huerta-ice-mermaid-27709470
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