Nipping winter in the bud with an icy tradition
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.
The wintery water awaits.