There is a new type of Guy.
there is always a new genre of Guy. Historically, but especially in the last five years, men have begun to coagulate—merge, if you will—around single, unified identities that connect them in spaces both real and virtual.
We have video game guys. Craft Beer Guys. Reddit guys and jiujitsu guys. We even have [shudder] Hats off guys. An endless procession of… guys. More recently, in 2022, we were introduced to Wife Guys.
Now I’d like to introduce you to the final boss of Boys: Ice Bath Boys.
If you’ve spent any time on social media, especially Instagram or TikTok, you must have seen this guy in his natural habitat. At 4 in the morning he comes out of his cave. He stands — usually half-naked — next to a tub, or a bucket, or an expensive keg full full with ice and water. He adjusts his camera because they always I have a camera. He communicates to this camera, in platitudes, about grinding, about winning the day, about fighting his baser instincts not to wake up early and engage in reckless behavior.
Then he submerges — completely submerged in the icy water, shaking as he vomits More ▼ banalities. “Comfort is your enemy” or “oil your mind”. That sort of thing.
The ice bath man has overcome his demons, he’s stronger, he’s better, he’s recovering faster, he’s feeling good, he’s master of his domain and his mind, because he—in this ungodly hour—is climbed awkwardly into this cold body of water and remained motionless for a period of time.
He became the Ultimate Guy. The Ice Bath Man.
For one strange, unforgettable day, I too became an ice bath.
Please allow me to explain.
It all started with a cold shower. The cold shower challenge was my main remedy. All through 2022, I was a cold shower man. For 12 months in a row, I gave up hot water and only took cold showers. Why? I’m still not entirely sure. It was something of an impulse, a temporary brain disease, from which I afterwards recovered. My inner monologue suggested that cold showers were a good idea and I agreed with her. Months later, I’m still not sure it was worth it.
My friends started jokingly calling me Wim Hof - after the Dutch motivational speaker known worldwide for his intense endurance challenges on ice.
So in March of this year, when the Hoff – aka The Iceman – arrived in my hometown of Sydney to deliver a series of clinics, those same friends thought it would be funny (and considerate) to buy me a ticket. A pass to an ice bath workshop hosted by the Hof himself.
Like a shivering, confused Pokemon, I was about to evolve from a small guy with a cold shower… to a full-fledged man with an ice bath.
Based in Sydney, within walking distance of the Harbor Bridge, Luna Park is like Six Flags stripped down by a factor of 10.
It’s a low-rent theme park, a grotesque collection of rides and twisted skill tests. An institution that is quite nostalgic for Australians over a certain age. But in 2023, it’s a warped anachronism to another place and time where merchants and carnies reigned supreme. He also – strangely – regularly hosts business conventions and motivational speakers.
Here, on a sweltering Friday afternoon, Hoff is in the process of giving a “safety briefing,” pacing frantically to a crowd of hundreds, cracking jokes, shouting things like “we can change the world.”
Hoff is 63 years old. He’s a little more normal than I expected. Well, he is and he isn’t.
Unlike TikTok influencers who hop into ice baths at 4 a.m., Hoff isn’t ripped or shredded. He is short and stocky, with shaggy hair and a shaggy beard. Wearing an ill-fitting t-shirt and flip flops, he doesn’t look like a motivational speaker – he looks like an Aussie grabbing a sausage roll at the local gas station.
He’s crazy too. In a good way, I think.
“The ice is your mirror,” he says mysteriously.
Ice is your mirror… damn it.
I found myself swept away by the crowd. “Yes!” I started to think. “Ice is kind of reflective. Perhaps could be a mirror, won’t you guys? Maybe we do i can changed the world by climbing into an extremely cold body of water.”
Hof just has that vibe.
“I’ll see you at the Ice Baths,” he called. He was on stage for two minutes. That was our safety briefing. That’s all it took for Hoff to convince me and everyone present that ice is a mirror and we can change the world by jumping into it.
Almost immediately, everyone poured out of the Luna Park conference room.
Surrounded by ferris wheels, fairy floss and the faint aroma of popcorn, I was about to take part in my first ice bath.
Here comes the ice bath
Of all the lines at Luna Park that day, the Hoff ice bath was the longest.
The irony didn’t escape me. It had the same energy as waiting for a roller coaster. That vague feeling of dread. Collective, vibrant excitement. A long wait for an extraordinary temporary experience. Dressed in sunscreen in my tiny swim shorts, I basked in the hot Australian sun as I approached the Hof and a row of makeshift inflatable pools – filled to the brim with cold water and copious amounts of ice.
The biggest surprise was the audience itself. I expected a potent mix of ice bath gym guys and canvas-clad barefoot hippies. What I got was different. There was Women here — a a lot of women. It might have been a 50-50 split.
I need to chat. May, a personal trainer, became a Hof fan after watching videos on YouTube and biked to Luna Park between client appointments to try an ice bath for the first time. Another woman – middle-aged, cracking jokes all the way – was here for a challenge. It was a once in a lifetime experience for her and I suspect many share the same sentiment. Strangely, the boys from the ice bath mostly stayed home.
In fact, after I got to the front of the line and gave Hof a big hug (everyone did — part of the package, I guess), I noticed that all 10 people in my ice bath group represented a diverse cross-section of the Australian population. Men, women, young, old, different races and backgrounds. We all gave each other a quick glance, that eye contact you share when you’re about to do something utterly stupid.
And then we climbed into the ice bath together.
It was cold. obviously. But another kind of cold. The kind of cold that makes your body feel like it’s on fucking fire. Hoff’s main area of expertise is helping his students I’m breathing, and, climbing into this ice bath, I immediately understood why. It was incredibly difficult to breathe in and out normally in this state. I instinctively thought that taking long, deep breaths would ease my acclimatization, but it didn’t help at all.
The only thing that really made things bearable was breathing outside. I picked a spot on the horizon to stare at and stared into the void, waiting for the two minutes to run out so I could get out of this frozen hellhole and live out the rest of my normal life in peace.
But then, in the last 30 seconds, a feverish dream. Hoff grabs a microphone or megaphone. Perhaps it was the raw power of his own voice reaching its limit. He began to sing, shouting at the top of his lungs like a call-and-response preacher:
“WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?”
All, in unison:
“Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh!”
“WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?”
“Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh!”
We chanted like men. Baha men. And then it was over. We got out of the ice bath, wrapped ourselves in towels. I felt… OK? relieved. proud? Perhaps. I found myself laughing. It was hysteria. Every single part of it was hysterical. For now, the rollercoaster is over.
The ice king
History is full of examples of human beings forcing themselves to perform unimaginable, torturous rituals. In Papua New Guinea, men carve elaborate elongated patterns on their backs, chests and buttocks to mark coming of age. Some tribes, including the indigenous tribes here in Australia, practiced unspeakably brutal circumcision. Many of these traditions are designed to instill an intense bond of trust in tribal members. If they could bear the pain of declawing, tattooing or penis mutilation, they could be trusted with clan secrets.
Perhaps ice baths are a highly domesticated version of the same impulse. That or a twisted mix of junk science, placebo effects and toxic masculinity.
I have two sons aged 10 and 7. During my year of cold showers they both thought it was funny yes too take cold showers to see who can last the longest trying to outdo each other. My 7-year-old once stayed inside for 15 minutes and – hilariously – started calling himself “The Ice King”.
But when I got home that night, my 10-year-old was most excited when I told him about the ice baths. He wanted to see if he could last two minutes like me. Temperatures hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Sydney this weekend. On my way home from a friend’s birthday party with my son, I stopped to fill up on gas and suddenly had a brain wave.
“Should we buy a few bags of ice and make an ice bath at home?”
My son’s eyes lit up. It was on.
We got home and made a makeshift diving pool in our bathtub and took turns getting in, screaming and giggling hysterically. It wasn’t as cold as Hoff’s bathroom, but it was still blood frostbite. A healthy, harmless kind of torture that (I think) builds some resilience in children. He climbed into the cold bath and sat there for two minutes, even though it was incredibly difficult. He still refuses to eat broccoli though.
But I asked myself: Why are we doing this? Why am I something like encouragement it? A quick Google search of “are ice baths suitable for children” dispelled initial fears, but bigger questions began to haunt me. Am I raising the next generation of boys? A new wave of guys engaging in pointless (often painful) activities to fill a gaping black void of validity?
My younger child – the so-called Ice King – was in the shops with my wife. I called them on Facetime and told them about the ice bath. My wife agreed to pick up a few more ice packs on the way home so we could subject son number 2 to the new family ritual.
“Okay,” I said to my 7-year-old on the phone. “Let’s see who it is real The ice king is.”
He was fired.
But later, when he got home, he didn’t seem so enthusiastic. He dipped his finger in cautiously, trying to feel what might be waiting for him. He was extremely reluctant.
“You go first, Dad,” he said.
“Already did gone in,” I replied.
“If you come in, father, I will enter Pinkie promised.
I felt like I had no choice. I had to set an example. To prove that you can (and sometimes Must) do difficult things. We Pinkies swore by it. Then, like a complete idiot, I went back into the tub.
This time it was cold. Right cold. Easily as cold as the ice bath at Luna Park. My limbs went stiff; all the ligaments and bones hurt. I was making sounds, ungodly sounds. I was in hell. My son, who was giggling like an upset demogorgon, found this extremely funny.
Finally, my two minutes were up. I clumsily crawled out of the tub, still in physical pain.
“Your turn,” I said, my body still shaking.
“No,” he replied. “I do not want.
He got out of the bathroom and fired up Roblox on his Nintendo Switch.
“What do you mean?” I cried, chasing after him, a huddled, broken old man.
“I’m fine,” he said finally. This boy needed no validation. There was no void to fill.
“You can be the ice king.”