The Atlantic

The Ice Guru in Brooklyn

Why people are following a leader who can teach them how to be cold
Source: Hummer; Don Farrall / Getty / Katie Martin / The Atlantic

The Cortex Is the Enemy

Greenpoint is a historically working-class Brooklyn neighborhood full of industrial buildings. In the last two decades these have been turned into lofts with skyline views, and skyscrapers are going up, and there are waterfront parks and coffee shops adjacent to other coffee shops. The old pencil factory is condos. The old rope factory is an event space. Along with adjacent Williamsburg—which now has an Apple Store, a Whole Foods, and an Equinox all on the same block—Greenpoint has become New York’s most rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.

In the heart of it is a 60,000-square-foot, glass-walled building called the Brooklyn Expo Center, which opened in 2014. It’s a single story with 24-foot ceilings. Inside on a Friday in May, roughly 400 people sat on the floor facing a makeshift stage. Above it was a screen that read, “We can do more than we think we can.”

On the stage stood a Dutch man in black shorts and a synthetic blue shirt. His grayish hair flopped as he paced. He looked somehow robust despite an absence of prominent musculature and a sort of convex abdomen. This was Wim Hof.

He is The Iceman.

“Depression, fear, pain, anxiety—you name it,” Hof’s voice boomed through the speakers. “We are able to get into any cell and change the chemistry. We are able to get into the DNA.”

Hof claims that people can address, prevent, and treat most any malady by focusing the mind to control the metabolic processes in their cells. For example, we can will our bodies to heat up in cold situations. He told the audience “we can beat cancer” by shutting down malignant cells. “I challenge any university in the world to test this out,” he roared.

For a four-hour seminar in The Wim Hof Method, attendees paid around $200. The ticket offered an opportunity to hear Hof speak and to perform his famous breathing exercises, and then to take a brief dip in an inflatable pool of ice water.

Almost the entire first half was Hof speaking extemporaneously, shoelessly. “You are the alchemist,” he said, gesturing out to the people, who sat rapt, mostly silent. “Nature is so

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