Near-Death Experience Leads to Innovative Line of Swimwear for Cold-Water Swimmers

At the beginning of 2019 Ruben Vanhees (34) was abducted and robbed by a local gang in Medellin (Colombia) after a fake date. He would certainly have been killed, had he not been able to escape. He can tell his story now, but his ordeal produced a post traumatic stress syndrome.

To conquer that, he discovered cold-water swimming. Despite the growing popularity of this sport, Ruben met with different practical obstacles. He discovered a gap in the market between the everyday swimwear and the semi-professional swimming suits. Where do you leave your phone during swimming? He decided to put the ideal products in the market. Shortly the crowdfunding campaign for ICEWIM will start: a stylish, practical, affordable and durable line of swimwear, swimming gear and accessories.

The World has embraced wild swimming. More and more people start swimming in spring, continue to swim long after the summer and even into the winter. The Wim Hof – method and a general tendency towards a more natural life style contribute to this. Cold water has many advantages for body and soul. Taking a cold shower and swimming in water at lower temperatures stimulates the delivery of the ‘ feel-good drug’ endorphin, which in turn diminishes stress hormones.

Ruben discovered that too: after his terrifying experience, he got into a serious depression and suffered from panic attacks. He missed the euphoria he had experienced when he escaped from his kidnappers. He rediscovered that feeling when he jumped into cold water. He was completely sold and decided to turn his new passion into his job.


With ICEWIM he wants everyone to be able to discover cold-water swimming. At the same time he offers solutions for the problems that cold-water swimmers encounter. For example, there is hardly a choice between the regular swimwear and semi-professional swimwear. 

Regular trunks and suits for instance offer little protection at low temperatures. Amateur swimmers therefore have to turn to very expensive swimwear for athletes or divers, or to wetsuits that are in fact designed for surfers and so less suited for swimming. And every open air swimmer tackles with the question where the phone, the keys and the dry clothes have to be stored.


The swimwear line consists of stylish, sporty trunks for men, a swimsuit for women and a multi-functional dry bag. In the trunks and the swimsuit there is a practical side pocket in which a waterproof phone cover can be placed.

Touch pads can be used through the plastic cover, which enables the swimmer to call and be called and take selfies during swimming sessions. In the dry bag, which can also be used as a rucksack ( backpack ), there is a waterproof case to store clothes, keys, wallet… The shoulder straps can be released and attached to the swimming trunks / suits. That makes swimming more comfortable.


The trunks and suits are made from 3mm Yulex. That is a natural alternative for the usual but not so durable neoprene that is used for swimming suits. Lexcell retains body heat and creates an extra layer of insulation that protects from the cold.

This material also has a higher buoyancy, which enhances safety. The dry bag can also be used as a floating aid, in case of cramps for instance. The reflective print on the dry bag makes for increased visibility.


The stylish swimwear of ICEWIM looks sporty and adventurous and is a sight to see. Moreover, the innovative character of the products is underlined by the use of thermochromic material in both the trunks and the suits. If this gets into contact with water under 12°C, it changes color from grey to dark blue.


ICEWIM is not in production yet, but Ruben, himself descendant from a Limburg textile family that also produced swimwear, has already been able to ty different major parties to his company and kindled enthusiasm in a manufacturer. In the middle of January he wants to launch a crowdfunding campaign with Indiegogo or Kickstarter to collect the money for the production of a first series of products.

Shortly the shooting of promotion video is Iceland will start. The director is herself a devoted cold-water swimmer. People who are curious about ICEWIM and want to support the campaign can get in touch through the website ( and will have a 30% discount on their first trunks or suits.

If you want to learn more about the mental and physical health benefits related to open water swimming and cold exposure, feel free to join our ICEWIM Facebook group or follow our Instagram page.

Have you personally experienced a positive impact on your life from open water swimming or cold exposure? We want to hear from you!  Share your story with us by emailing an audio or video testimonial to And get a chance to be featured on the ICEWIM Instagram account

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