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Carina Roter, 64: Open Water Swimmer and Yogi

What makes us unique? We all have a passion within us that when activated gives us purpose. Carina's is swimming in the icy waters of the open sea surrounded by seals, otters, and orcas. She discusses the meditative nature of her morning swim, its similarity to her yoga practice, and spending lockdown on Galiano Island. 

We are all different, and we sometimes find our passion and purpose in unexpected places. Passion creates the possible; doing things that from the outside may not seem likely, or even possible. This is what gives us each our superpowers — these things that to us seem not only normal, but as essential to our being as breathing. We all have these; often we don’t see them as being at all special. Au contraire. This is what makes each one of us so amazing.

Carina likes to swim, alone, on a very small island, in waters shared with apex predators, where the water is very cold, every day. To her, this is of course what she does, it is not even a question. To others, it may seem wildly unpleasant, even terrifying. Seeing her images, listening to her speak about her life with yoga and the ocean swims, it is clear that this is not something many people would aspire to do. 

Why do you swim?
I have always loved swimming. I am at home in the water. I would swim in a puddle. The dial always clicks back into place whilst swimming. I can’t NOT swim. I get up and go. Sometimes I think I am really a mermaid.

“I can’t NOT swim. Sometimes I think I am really a mermaid”

What do you get from year-round ocean swimming?
It is a relationship. Quite an intimate one at that.  I am in it and it is in me. No swim is the same (the temperature of the water, the quality of the water). Sometimes it is quiet, like glass. Sometimes it is very upsetting. Sometimes I am the one that is quiet and sometimes I am the one that is upset. This daily morning swim frames the day. If I accomplish nothing else, at least that was done. 

Carina and her dog, Amber.

Do you feel there are health benefits from cold water swimming?
Too many to mention. Increased immunity. Inflammation reduction. Mood-boosting. I never regret a swim. I always feel great during and after. I needed stitches on a nasty gash last summer. Not only did it heal quickly. I have no scar.

What is the water temperature in the winter?
The average water temperature in the winter is about 4°C. 

Do you think there is something about being Austrian that makes you ok with being in the cold?
Zero! The irony is that I am the person that could sleep with a parka in July. Go figure!

“Every day I share the water with an assortment of seals, otters, mink, herons, and bald eagles”

What sort of sea animals are you swimming with?
This is the best part. I swim off the coast of British Columbia. Every day I share the water with an assortment of seals, otters, mink, herons, and bald eagles. On the extra magical days, there are orcas and humpback whales in the water as well.

Carina Roter in her element.

Do any of them interact with you?
The seals are VERY curious. Often they will swim within a few feet. The otters as well.

Do you ever get fearful that the orcas may mistake you for a meal?
It has crossed my mind. What I am more concerned about would be being dragged down with the force of the water as they dive. I will take my chances.

What sort of preparation do you do before getting in the water?
I do a few rounds of Wim Hof breathing.

“I have found the Wim Hof breathing gets me out of my nervous system. Somehow I am oblivious to the initial shock of the cold water”

How does it feel to swim in water that cold?
I have found the Wim Hof breathing gets me out of my nervous system. I finish my last round and do not feel anything. Somehow I am oblivious to the initial shock of the cold water. After a few seconds, I acclimate and it feels fine.

Does your partner ever swim with you, or are you always alone?
This is primarily my thing. I get up and go. He started coming in the past few weeks. He has a daily meditation practice. Instead of doing that at home he sometimes does it at the beach while I swim.

How is your yoga practice related to your swimming?
They are almost interchangeable. They are both meditative. The body moves in a rhythmic, steady fashion, breath linked to movement. I am focused. I am often chanting in my head in both swim swimming and yoga.

“I am often chanting in my head in both swimming and yoga”

You mentioned that with yoga, experience and knowledge are respected. How did you experience that?
In yoga, you just keep learning. The older you are, the more you have experienced, read, and learned. There are no ends to the postures. The older teachers and practitioners are so full of knowledge. It shines through them. A young gymnastic yoga practitioner has nothing over a senior practitioner. Zero.

Who is your canine friend? She seems very special.
Amber is a Sealyham Terrier. She is very zen. There are more pandas and white tigers than there are Sealyhams. These little dogs are quite special.

How does Amber feel about you going into the water?
Amber guards my shoes on the beach!

Why did you move to Galiano Island?
My partner’s family has an inn on Galiano (https://driftwoodvillage.com). It has always been an oasis to escape to. For the past 19 months, during the lockdown, I have been working at the inn. This island is peaceful. Nothing much changed with the lockdown except the introduction of masks. 

Where did you come from?
I was born and raised in Montreal to Austrian parents. My mother tongue is German. I also speak English, French, and Spanish. 

What sort of work were you doing earlier in your life?
I flew for 35 years. I LOVED it. 20 years ago I fell deeply in love with yoga. My airline job was the perfect vehicle to study around the world with the best yoga teachers. I loved teaching yoga. Sometimes if my flight was delayed I would blow into the yoga studio and teach in my airline uniform! Too bad I wasn’t into cold water swimming during my airline career. I spent A LOT of time in the Canadian Arctic. 

Follow Carina Roter on Instagram: @amberthesealyham

38 COMMENTS

  1. Awesome story!! It’s so encouraging and motivating to hear stories like this one! Interesting that she uses Wim Hof breathing technique. I’m going to try this for sure!

    • Hello Laura,
      Win Hof breathing is an excellent preparation for meditation. It saturates the organs with oxygen.
      Good luck!
      Cheers
      Carina

    • Hello Laura,
      Win Hof breathing is an excellent preparation for meditation. It saturates the organs with oxygen.
      Good luck!
      Cheers
      Carina

  2. I an proud to call this wonderful woman my dear friend. Her dedication to mindfulness and self awareness has always been an inspiration to me. As she ages, her universe continually expands and my admiration and love for her both grow.

  3. So inspiring and thanks so much for linking it to my swim article from a few years ago. These bad-ass open water swimmer ladies need to stick together!

  4. Carina,
    You are very inspiring. Like you, water is me but I like cool water not too cold. The pool is my meditation Center. Every time we meet I feel this beautiful energy emanating from your beautiful soul.
    Keep doing what you are doing.
    Lots of love to you,
    Clément

  5. Wonderful article of a wonderful friend and former colleague. We miss you, but adore your shares of your exhilarating water adventures Carina. 💙

    Much love, Denise

  6. Carina,
    You have always been an inspiration to me. You are the reason why I am a SD today as your professionalism amazed me, and at the same time you were so laid back and humble.
    Thanks for paving the way!

  7. Anne, my love, how could I forget. Your first flight back after being off for a long while.we. We met on the all night flight to YUL. There you were slinging buns to the business class passengers right out of the plastic bag. You had me at “ This is okay, right?”

  8. You look amazing Carina. What a inspiration you are with your vitality and glowing aura. When you are in Vancouver give me a call and I would love to go for a walk with you again.
    Jan Goodale

  9. Let’s just say…A person can never have enough Carina in their life. Schatze, you are my lifetime beautiful friend…love you tons! 😘

  10. Fabulous lady and brave to get in that cold water!
    You look fabulous and happy; keep doing what you are doing as you are glowing!!! À bientôt, MichèleXxx

  11. I loved reading this article and getting to “know” you Carina. I also love how you inspire through “who”’you are and “what”
    you are. ❤️ Samantha

  12. You are such a champion Carrie!!! I loved reading the story and learning more about your awesomeness (and what a great shoe-guarder Amber is 😉

  13. Hello Carina – I too am a lifelong swimmer…Swam the Maui channel back in 1978, and many ocean swims since then….However, I’ve lived in Montana for the past 45 or so years, and gotten away from swimming. This past summer, I visited Loreto and was in heaven swimming. As I age, I feel like I must live somewhere where I can swim….But your ability to swim in such cold water seems amazing to me….I love wim hof breathing, and perhaps could learn to be able to endure cold water swimming with that. Thank you for the inspiration!! xo

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AUTHOR

David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.

 

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