Nip­ping win­ter in the bud with an icy tra­di­tion

Rodney Times - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - MATTHEW CATTIN

A nip of spir­its is all it takes to keep the cold at bay for a brave bunch of re­tired Orewa swim­mers.

Ev­ery win­ter sol­stice, the five friends leave the warmth of their Orewa homes to cel­e­brate the short­est day of the year with a chilly dip.

In nought but their togs - or speedos for the very coura­geous the lads brave the ocean’s chill, rain, wind, hail or shine.

Their only de­fence against the cold; a tip­ple of scotch or brandy.

‘‘A few of us have been the worse for wear after our ‘warm­ing ses­sion’ - prob­a­bly more so than the swim,’’ Sam Mal­colm­son said.

‘‘We mostly walk down or get a lift as there is lit­tle doubt we would all fail any breath test, and our abil­ity to speak com­mon sense could be ques­tioned.’’

This year’s swim was cold and windy, with plenty of white­caps whip­ping up the wa­ter, Mal­colm­son said, but the friends warmed up quickly post-dip.

The group - aged be­tween 67 and 75 - started their icy tra­di­tion five years ago.

All keen on a bit of ex­er­cise and a Fri­day pub trip, the friends de­cided they would aim for a New Year’s Day swim­ming tra­di­tion, but it never quite took off.

They set­tled, in­stead, on the much colder al­ter­na­tive of swim­ming on the year’s short­est day.

For­mer All White Mal­colm­son, 70, says when you get old it’s easy to get into the habit of not do­ing any­thing.

‘‘We try to do some­thing that keeps us go­ing, gives us part­ner­ship, and com­mu­nity spirit,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s about the spirit of be­ing to­gether, and also the spirit of al­co­hol.’’

Some of the lads have had by­pass surgery or pace­mak­ers in­stalled, 67-year-old swim­mer Keith Ow­ers said, but it doesn’t stop them.

While brav­ing last week’s blus­tery sol­stice, the swim­mers ‘‘were all just mak­ing sure the tick­ers never stopped,’’ he said.

Swim­ming rules are strictly ad­hered to, en­sur­ing no­body gets to keep their hair dry.

‘‘Ev­ery­body must go un­der­wa­ter and do a few strokes, get­ting their whole body im­mersed,’’ Mal­colm­son said.

The group, which also in­cludes Max Sch­legel, 75, Ted Hard­ing (who missed this year’s swim), 72, and Alan Flint, 67, also swims ev­ery sum­mer sol­stice and Labour Week­end.

MATTHEW CATTIN/FAIRFAX NZ

The win­tery wa­ter awaits.

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