Chun Kong Mak Becomes First Man to Swim a Butterfly Ice Mile

A man immune to any water temperature, Chun Kong Mak swam 1609 meters in sub 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit) waters in Altenworth, Austria.

According to International Ice Swimming Association rules, any swim under 5 degrees Celsius qualifies as an ice swim.

What is especially remarkable about the accomplishment is that he didn’t swim his ice mile with the standard front crawl freestyle… he swam the entire challenge butterfly.

On February 16th, Mak plunged into the cold water without wearing a wet-suit, spending a total of 43 minutes and 3 seconds swimming butterfly. With that swim, it’s believed that he becomes the first man to complete the “Butterfly Ice Mile” after Pauline Barker became the first woman to do so in 2016. She swam her challenge at the Harthill Reservoir in Rotherham, England in a time of 52 minutes.

At one point in the middle of the swim, the 33-year old says that he blacked out from the cold but continued to push through. He received immediate medical attention after exiting the water, having successfully accomplished his goal.

The “Honk Kong Ice Butterflyer” began his swim career again in 2017 when he competed in the FINA Masters Open Water World Championships in Hungary.

Each year since he has attended anywhere from 30-50 open water events, including plenty of ice water swims, much of these accomplishments can be found on his website.

Mak started training for this swim behind his coach Rostislav Vitek (10 K Olympic open water finalist and Ice Mile world record holder) and began swimming every ice water swim race from November 2019 onward.

“I started to swim butterfly instead of freestyle,” Mak said, describing his training during the race weekends.

“In the beginning, I got exhausted after 400-500m and needed a break before continuing. I searched online about other long distance butterfly swim records and believed that the stroke of long distance butterfly should be different from the conventional butterfly we learned for a pool race.”

Mak began to develop a new open water butterfly technique that had a longer stroke with slower frequency. He would spend time training in both the pool and the open ice water throughout the weeks. The recovery sessions were important too, he made sure not to over train, and he soon found a 2 kilometer butterfly workouts becoming easier.

“Gradually my shoulders got bigger and core became stronger,” said Mak.

Here are some sets given by his coach Vitek for a pool workout:

8x50m butterfly with snorkel, without fins
4x100m butterfly with fins
2x200m butterfly one with fins, one without
4x100m butterfly with fins
8x50m butterfly with snorkel, without fins

30x50m butterfly @1:00 with fins
20x50m free @1:00
10x50m butterfly @1:00 without fins

Mak’s training partner in the Czech Republic is American ice water swimmer Colin Bushweller, who set the American record in the 1k ice swim earlier this year.

“I started to believe in Bruce Lee’s Jet Kune Do’s philosophy from 18 years old. ‘Using no way as way, having no limitation as limitation’, ‘be water’. They are deep in my heart,” explained Mak on his mental fortitude during training.

“It means we understand our current limitation of stroke techniques and physical conditions. but always find a way to break the current framework and push it further. Re-learn everything anytime.”

Chun Kong Mak is currently training to swim across the English Channel without a wet-suit as his next task, more information can be found on his crowd funding page here.


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2 years ago

I’m going to be the first person to swim butterfly whilst drinking ice wine.

Reply to  Paella747
2 years ago

My favorite ice wine song:

2 years ago

MIKE HoRN would love that kind of challenge ……MIKE was the first man to cross the North Pole in the dark + walking on constant moving ice + crossing Polar bears .

2 years ago

1. Wow
2. Why?

JP input is too short
Reply to  Togger
2 years ago

Yeah, I just don’t get the appeal…

Reply to  JP input is too short
2 years ago

Pretty much what every non-swimmer has said about any swimming feat since the beginning of time…

Reply to  JP input is too short
2 years ago

the Know One Self ….is that any other other reason in the list of sane reasons ?

2 years ago

Guess if you’re swimming in water that cold you might as well do it fly.

2 years ago

Never complaining about my pool’s temperature again…

2 years ago

Insane. Definitely something David Goggins would do if he had more of a competitive swim background (doubt they worked on much butterfly in the SEALs). Even then, if he catches wind of this feat we’ll probably hear about him dying soon trying to one-up this.

Anyway, more on-topic, I’m curious about his brown adipose tissue levels compared to average. It’s gotta be through the roof due to all the cold water training.

Reply to  sven
2 years ago

Pure resilience

2 years ago