We arrived at the icy lake in the arctic city of Murmansk to meet what must surely be the world’s bravest swimming club.
The temperature here in winter routinely plunges to -20C, and it is so far north the sun does not rise at all for six weeks.
There was fresh snow on the ground and most people were dressed in their heavy winter gear but a small group of hardy souls was limbering up by the water’s edge.
Wearing bathing suits despite the sub-zero conditions they appeared to be oblivious to the bitter cold.
They call themselves “The Walruses” and they swim here all year round, through the depths of the Russian winter.
Their members range in age from children to pensioners.
They say they do it for health, strength and self-respect.
They believe the extreme cold improves the immune system, relieves joint pain and stress.
Sixy-two-year-old Lyudmila Ruchievaya told Sky News: “I am doing this to improve my mood, so that my life would be happier, to have more fun.
“I feel invigorated and fresh. It makes me happy. I respect myself, that I could do this!”
“I feel like I have been reborn,” said Victor Hovatsky, 49, after his swim. “It’s a great feeling, simply wonderful.”
His friend, Raphael Yakupov, 66, explained: “We are getting healthy like this, so that we do not get ill.
“We do it for vigour, extreme conditions are good – we are extreme.”
We met 12-year-old Alina Antibetova, who has been swimming here since 2008.
“I do this because it gives me a lot of emotions, strength and health,” she said. “I like it very much.
“I like it even though it’s considered an extreme sport. I feel comfortable in cold water.”
Then came the inevitable question as to whether I would be joining them in the water.
I asked Alina whether she had any advice?
“Do it with a light heart and most importantly, don’t be afraid,” she replied.
Mrs Ruchievaya advised me to “think warm thoughts, and above all keep breathing”.
Having left my dignity well and truly behind in the changing hut, I set out on the icy walk to the lake’s edge, cheered on by new walrus friends.
The club’s champion cold water swimmer, Vladimir Ivanovich, led the way, advising me to get in “quickly, quickly” and diving from the dock.
There was really no way to do it gracefully, so I tried to follow his advice and do it as rapidly as possible.
At first it was so cold it was difficult to breathe, let alone speak, but as we swam out into the lake it did get better, and by the end it was almost fun.
Climbing out, I realised I could no longer really feel my feet, as I tried to get my flip-flops back on.
But it didn’t matter, my circulation would come back, and I was officially an honorary Russian walrus.