History of the swim

The initial idea for swimming across Lake Thingvallavatn came from Mr. Fylkir Sævarsson in the summer of 2000.

He turned his idea into reality the following year when he swam from the tip of Mjóanes in the county of Bláskógabyggð, across the lake to the sandy beach between Riðvík and Markartangi in the county of Grímsnes and Grafningshreppur.

Fylkir swimming in Lake Thingvallavatn.

In the summer of 2002, Mr. Kristinn Magnússon, a childhood friend of Fylkir from the Swim Club of Hafnarfjörður, swam across the lake from the sandy beach to the tip of Mjóanes in the opposite direction of Fylkir’s swim.

Kristinn swimming in Lake Thingvallavatn.

In the summer of 2003, Kristinn came up with the idea to make the swim across Lake Thingvallavatn into an annual event. By this time he had swam from the mainland to the Vestmann Islands. His idea behind the swimming event, now known as the Thingvallasund, is to enable more people to participate in the swim. The swim will commence from the tip of Mjóanes as in the first swim across the lake.

My story of the swim.

“The initial idea for swimming across the lake came to me during the summer of 2000 when I worked as a watchman over some telecommunications equipment located on top of Mt. Miðfell. From there I had a good view of the lake during my long day or night shifts. I therefore had plenty of time to ponder over my idea anytime during the day or night. The more I thought about the swim the more determined I became to make it happen.

The following fall I moved to Denmark where I now reside and I used the winter to mentally prepare myself.

I came back to Iceland early in the summer of 2001 and started work on the maintenance of the Sogsvirkjun hydro-electric dam. This meant that I resided in the general area of Lake Thingvallavatn throughout the week and it allowed me to easily go swim in the cold waters after I finished work. To begin with I swam in the river between the Ljósafoss hydro-electric dam and the Írafoss hydro-electric dam. The current in the river is not very swift so it suited me well to swim out into the current, find a rock on the bottom to get my bearings and swim against the current much like a runner uses a treadmill for running. The longer the periods I spent swimming in the river, enabled me sooner to begin training in Lake Thingvallavatn itself.

It was a magical experience swimming along the shoreline at the south end of the lake near the outfall of the lake. The bottom of the lake was so much different from the bottom I knew from open water swimming in the ocean. The clear water visibility and bottom terrain were much different. I was surprised by the cold currents rising up from deep bottom fissures. Looking down into the seemingly bottomless abyss sent a shiver down my spine. Never the less my training swims went well and I decided to start bicycling back to my lodgings to warm myself up after spending long periods in the chilly water. Because of the bicycling my spell of the usual uncontrolled chills and shivering stopped. At this point my weight was around 240 pounds. and I gradually increased the length of time I spent in the water. I estimated it would take about two hours to swim across the lake so I focused on being able to spend 45 to 60 minutes in the lake at a time. Since I had planned on working in Iceland for only six weeks that summer, my preparations were on a tight schedule. I also had to decide where to make landfall on the other side of the lake. I chose a sandy beach between Riðvík and Markatangi as a good place for landfall.

During the weekends I used Lake Vífilstaðavatn and Lake Elliðavatn near Reykjavík as training grounds. Anglers in Lake Elliðavatn felt my swimming in the lake would be detrimental to their chances of catching fish and the game warden agreed with them so that I turned my training efforts to Lake Vífilsstaðavatn. I also trained in Lake Úlfjótsvatn. A week before my scheduled swim, when I had spent two hours swimming in Lake Þingvallavatn one night after work, I decided my preparations were complete. Four weeks had passed since I had started my training. I spoke to the farmer of Mjóanes and got his permission to begin my swim from the tip of the Mjóanes. I also spoke to the local Search and Rescue Organization in the town of Selfoss, which has Lake Thingvellir within its jurisdiction. Finally there was little to do except count down the days to the swim.”

Mr. Fylkir Þorgeir Sævarsson.