Wim Hof, the real Iceman

If there would be a contest for reallife superheroes then Wim Hof would be a definite contender for that title. Due to his ability to withstand extreme cold he has been dubbed the ‘Iceman’ by the likes of Time magazine and the New York Times and he has a list of achievements to prove it: He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro & Mount Everest wearing only shorts and sandals, he holds the world record for longest ice bath, he swam 80 meters underneath the North Pole ice wearing just swimming trunks and he ran a Marathon in Northern Finland in mid winter barefoot wearing shorts only! And those are just a few of his accomplishments.


The Iceman’s superpower: mind control, breathing techniques & meditation

Wim describes his ability to withstand extreme cold temperatures as being able to “turn his own thermostat up” by using  a combination of his mind, breathing techniques and advanced meditation.

Research by several universities has shown that Wim Hof is able to control his autonomic nervous system to generate heat. Add to this extensive cold training and an altered version of the ancient Asian Tummo meditation technique and you get a cocktail of techniques that give Hof his ‘superpowers’.

Wim-Hof-Iceman 1

According to Hof using his techniques anyone can alter his body situation to such an extent that it absorbs more oxygen which positively influences the so important autonomic nervous system and enables you to withstand extreme temperatures.

And Hof went on to proof it with his achievements….

The Iceman’s 26 world records

The Dutch adventurer and daredevil is the holder of 26 Guinness world records.

The Iceman’s impressive list of records include running a full marathon in the Namibian desert without drinking water, a world record for longest ice bath (1 hour and 52 minutes in a bath of ice cubes filled to his chin), hanging on one finger at an altitude of 2,000 metres, climbing Mount Everest in just shorts and sandals and scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, first in 2009 in only shorts and sandals, and then in 2015 in in a record time of 31 hours and 25 minutes by using his special breathing technique. Oh and he holds the record for the fartest swim under ice….the North Pole’s ice that is!

Wim-Hof-Iceman-under-North-Pole-IceHere is a video of his previous record of 57 meters which he later beat – on the North Pole – to set the new world record on 80 meters!

“The most challenging record was climbing Everest in just a pair of shorts, with the extreme altitude making it really tough.Swimming beneath the North Pole ice and not finding the hole back was quite a frightening experience too.”

Climbing Kilimanjaro in Shorts and Sandals

In 2009 Hof came up with a challenge: He wanted to climb the 5,895 m high Mount Kilimanjaro wearing only shorts and sandals. In those days that was something that could not be done. Or that was the common idea. But they hadn’t met the Iceman yet. Hof set his mind to it, prepared meticulously and in February of that year he reached the top of Africa’s highest mountin wearing near to nothing in temperatures of -15 degreees Celsius.


His Porters were completely stunned when they saw him starting the climb in only shorts but soon realised he was serious. They had never seen anything like it before – in spite of being used to stunt ascends of the mountain ( like a ‘Penguin’ climbing to the top) –  and were completely taken aback by the iceman braving the mountain’s freezing  temperature without proper mountain gear.

Few knew at that time this was only the start…

Scaling Mount Everest in just Shorts

After Kilimanjaro Hof put his eye on the biggest one of them all: Mount Everest. He decided to attempt a climb to the summit, once again in Wim Hof outfit, wearing only shorts and sandals!

About this – much criticised – attempt Hof said “Edmund Hillary’s ascent of Mount Everest was a testament to human achievement; my climb of Mount Everest in my shorts will be a monument to the frivolous,decadent nature of modern society. And my faith in my techniques”.


Hof made it to a very respectable height of 7400 m where he had to give up his summit attempt due to frozen toes. It seems even ‘the iceman’ is not made entirely of ice.

Even Though he did not make it to the summit, he did set a new world altitude record for ‘highest climb in shorts’ which was officially acknowledged by the Guinness World Record book.

Running an Ice Marathon barefoot

After having first ran half a marathon in Northern Finland barefoot and wearing only shorts Hof decided to tackle a full marathon as well.

In 2009 Hof completed the full marathon (42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi)), above the polar circle in Finland, in temperatures close to −20 °C (−4 °F). Dressed in nothing but shorts, Hof finished in 5 hours and 25 minutes.


But Hof still had to proof himself as being the real deal….

Fact or Faked!?

On 19 April 2012, an episode of the US television program Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files, featuring Hof, was broadcast. Hof was tested against a member of the team named Austin, both sitting in a tank full of ice. Austin sat in the tank for about 20 minutes, with his surface body temperature falling to four degrees Celsius. When he got out of the water, the other two team members used a heat camera to reveal that his surface body temperature was at about four degrees Celsius. Hof’s core body temperature stayed the same for the entire twenty minutes, as did his heart rate. He managed to stay submerged for over ninety minutes proving that by no means he was a faker or charlatan.


From being a Circus Act to Scientific Recognition

In spite of his amazing achievements, Wim Hof, for a very long time, kept on being considered a strange awkward performer. Due to all his crazy world records – he often was considered a funny circus artist in the press. Not many people were taking him and his strange techniques very seriously. Let alone anyone believing in what he claimed to be “scientifically valid approaches”

But Wim remained convinced that what he was doing could be trained and hence done by anyone. And he was determined to prove it to the world.

So Hof went on to cooperate with university researchers, most notably the Dutch acclaimed Radboud University.


In 2011 the University published a paper with the following conclusion:

“New research on “Iceman” Wim Hof suggests that he can influence his autonomic nervous system and immune response through concentration and meditation. The results obtained are remarkable, however, the investigators emphasize that so far, these results have only been obtained in a single individual. Therefore, they can not serve as scientific evidence for the hypothesis that the autonomic nervous system and the immune response can be influenced through concentration and meditation techniques.”

A small victory for Wim Hof. But not enough. So wim went on to do what every man with a mission does, he went on to find volunteers that wanted to be trained by him, in his methods, and which would be subjected to the same test he had done. Hof was determined to prove anyone could do this…

So Wim went on to train 12 participants that had no prior training. He instructed them in the ‘Wim Hof Methods’ in order to give them the power to modulate their own immune system the same way Hof could. After the training each of them got injected with a bacterium that normally causes violent nausea, vomiting and heavy fevers. And guess what? Well Wim Hof once again stunned the world as the trained participants were miraculously healthy compared to the untrained control group.

According to researcher Wouter Van Marken Lichtenbelt this investigation “conclusively showed” that the immune system can be positively influenced by the Wim Hof Method.

The iceman finally got his scientific recognition

Wim-Hof-Iceman-swimming in Iceland

The Wim Hof Method

So what exactly is the Wim Hof method?

The Wim Hof Method is similar to Tummo (inner heat) Meditation and Pranayama, a form of yogic breathing. Yet it is something else entirely while his technique primordially comes from what he terms ‘cold hard nature’. By subjecting himself to the bitter conditions of nature, he learned to withstand the extreme forces of cold, heat and fear. If you learn this method or technique correctly, it will empower you do to the same.

The first part is a breathing exercise which can be likened to controlled hyperventilation. Normally hyperventilation is something which happens involuntarily but for the sake of Hof’s method imagine the breathing part, without any of stress triggers that normally cause this way of breathing. The image will consist of rapid breathing that makes one languid, invigorates one, makes one high on oxygen. One mechanism of this practice is the complete oxygenation of your blood and cells.

Book: Becoming the Iceman, pushing past perceived limits

In November 2011 Hof and his student Justin Rosales published Becoming the Iceman, a book documenting their background, adventures, training, exclusive methods and exercises used to attain the ability to endure extreme temperatures. A great read that offers a fascinating insight into the life of the amazing Iceman.

becoming the iceman book cover

Documentary: Inside the Superhuman World of the Iceman

Wim Hof first caught the attention of scientists when he proved he was able to use meditation to stay submerged in ice for 1 hour and 53 minutes without his core body temperature changing. Since then, he’s climbed Mount Everest in his shorts, resisted altitude sickness, completed a marathon in the Namib Desert with no water and proven under a laboratory setting that he’s able to influence his autonomic nervous system and immune system at will.

Almost everything Wim has done was previously thought to be impossible – but he’s not a freak of nature.

To demonstrate that any human can learn his methods, Wim offered to teach Matt Shea and Daisy-May Hudson to climb a freezing cold mountain in their shorts without getting cold. But when Matt and Daisy signed up for the training, they had no idea that the so-called Iceman was planning to lead them on a psychedelic journey across Europe that circled the chasm between science, spirituality and mystery.

The Innerfire in everyone

Ever since his transformation from a Circus act to a scientifically proven miracle man Wim Hof has focused himself more and more on consultancy with his own workshops, Wim Hof Academy and online training centre via his website The latter is the brainchild of one of his five sons who – being a savvy businessman – realised the potential of the Wim Hof methods.

From circus artist to scientifically proven & savy businessman

Wim has shown what the human body is capable of once you find the flow within your physical and mental state. Right now he especially sees his new challenge in passing on his method to others to give everyone the opportunity to reach out and do more than what they thought they were capable of. By the right training and exercises you can make your inner nature stronger and prevent disease.

The Iceman’s ultimate goal

When asked “What is the final stage in your mission (to help people find their innerfire) Hof replied: “I want to bring back love to the world. Love is compiled by happiness, strength and health. If you radiate good energy because you are healthy, happy and strong, ..that is love. So love is my mission”

It’s for free!
It’s life!
It’s good!

….signed by Wim Hof….the real Iceman!

What do you think?

Our Correspondent
Cult Netherlands correspondent
Marc - Weert

Wondering wanderer of the world! Avid cyclist, ski/snowboard guru & passionate ping-pong player. Lover of both good & cheap wines, random facts, rocking chairs and singing in the shower. I love to drink myself silly in the company of other people ...

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