Mid­win­ter dip­ping for 20 years


The per­son check­ing the tides has a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity. Plim­mer­ton Mid­win­ter Dip, or­gan­ised each year as a fundraiser for the sub­urb’s kinder­garten, hits the 20-year mile­stone on June 12.

One of the or­gan­is­ers for this year’s event, Michelle Sharp, re­calls the 2013 dip. There was a huge storm in the pre­ced­ing days and the dip was also af­fected by a big spring tide.

‘‘That was un­for­tu­nate,’’ she said. ‘‘The wa­ter was very close in, and that made life tough. It went ahead, but it’s fair to say the per­son check­ing the tides has a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity. No-one could’ve pre­dicted how high the wa­ter would get that day.’’

Mandy Hewett was one of the or­gan­is­ers in 1996, of the first dip.

She said the ‘‘usual fundrais­ing talk’’ was oc­cur­ring, in­clud­ing bake sales, sausage siz­zles and sell­ing choco­late.

‘‘I sug­gested a spon­sored swim – I was try­ing to think of some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent,’’ she said. ‘‘The idea grew, but it had to be some­thing safe for the kids and invit­ing for the public.’’

The Plim­mer­ton Mid­win­ter Dip was born and was wellat­tended right from the start, Hewett said. She said ‘‘a few hun­dred dol­lars’’ was col­lected from hardy souls who tore into the wa­ter and back out again 20 years ago.

The weather was good for the first dip and cof­fee from Caffe L’af­fare and hot soup were well­re­ceived.

Hewett said there were kayaks in the wa­ter in case any­thing went awry for the hardy dip­pers.

The kinder­garten had had bril­liant spon­sors and fan­tas­tic com­mu­nity sup­port from day one, Hewett said.

‘‘I re­mem­ber [in 1996] just rat­tling the ice-cream con­tain­ers to col­lect money and they were full. It was a great feel­ing to have peo­ple in Plim­mer­ton, and fur­ther afield too, be­hind us from the word go.’’

Hewett said a mid­win­ter dip was or­gan­ised in the early 2000s at Rau­mati but, de­spite the pres­ence of All Black Chris­tian Cullen, it had nowhere near the suc­cess of Plim­mer­ton’s.

She said the most fa­mous face to at­tend in Plim­mer­ton was All Black Pita Ala­tini one year, while lo­cal celebri­ties, such as may­ors and MPs, had been sup­port­ive.

Hewett said the me­dia in­ter­est had helped, but the event was now firmly fixed on the cal­en­dar in Porirua’s north­ern sub­urbs.

Since 2005, only once has heavy rain ru­ined it, though the storm and big tide in 2013 put a lit­eral damp­ener on pro­ceed­ings and cut into the fundrais­ing.

Money raised has climbed steadily since 1996, to the point where a new play­ground last year and pro­posed bath­room up­grade this year can be paid for.

‘‘It’s our main fundraiser, but it’s got big­ger than the kinder­garten,’’ Sharp said. ‘‘This is some­thing peo­ple mark down on the cal­en­dar and look for­ward to.’’

Dress­ing up and the slew of ac­tiv­i­ties at Kare­hana Bay each June for the dip have evolved over time.

Fire­fight­ers in full gear, bal­let dancers, old-style swim­ming cos­tumes, and many chil­dren in dress-up make the event a colour­ful one.

Hewett and Sharp said a small band of ded­i­cated kinder­garten com­mit­tee mem­bers made it work, get­ting the word out, or­gan­is­ing raf­fles, trea­sure hunts, food and drink, and touch­ing base with spon­sors.

There’s only one way to get into the wa­ter – fast – as th­ese hardy souls did in 2011. Photo: KRIS DANDO

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