Shrieks of shock, delight and elation pierced the cold Canberra air this morning on the shores of Yarralumla Beach.
If you looked across the water, you would have seen about 230 people baring all as part of the Ian Lindeman Memorial Winter Solstice Swim.
At 7:12 am on the dot, the swimmers took to the water in their birthday suits and some supplied swimming caps.
It’s the second time Nina Enever and Thomas Fairweather have taken to the bracing depths.
“After you do the swim, for the rest of the day, you have this sense of elation, and I guess if you start the day doing something that seems really horrendous, it means when you get to work, the day can’t get any worse,” Nina joked.
“When everyone’s naked, it’s like no one’s naked.”
Thomas agreed: “Everything seems brighter, tastes better, and when you hit that cold water it wakes everything up and really cleanses the soul.”
And that’s part of the swim’s purpose: to wash away any negativity and welcome the new solar year refreshed.
There’s also a fundraising aspect, with 100 per cent of the money raised going to Lifeline Canberra.
Tess McDonald recently moved to Canberra from Melbourne and was convinced to come along to the event with Nina and Thomas.
“I don’t need much convincing, but I’m feeling nervous, excited, a bit of trepidation,” she said before entering the water.
While Tess didn’t get her hair wet or head out to the barge like some other swimmers, she said her friends weren’t lying about the water’s restorative effects.
“It was actually very liberating,” she said.
Nina added she found it easier to take part the second time around as she knew what to expect.
“There’s nothing zen about this for me, just pure chaos and adrenaline,” she said.
“But you can definitely tell who’s new. They’re the ones who get straight in and straight out.”
It was quite a sight seeing everyone barrel into the water, steam rising on the lake’s surface. Some swimmers even went back for a second dip.
One man who has seen it all is piper Stuart Gray, who has played the bagpipes to welcome the swimmers since the first event.
“Even in lockdown, when only two swimmers could go in, I was here,” he said.
A member of the Burns Club Pipe Band, he put his hand up when the unusual request to pipe at a nude swim was put forward.
“I thought, ‘that looks really cool’ … but I only play quite simple tunes. My fingers can’t work as well in the cold,” Stuart said.
“Each year I’ve contemplated jumping in, as it’s supposedly good for you, but I think I’ll keep saying ‘maybe next year’.”
One group of volunteers who have to enter the water are members of the Broulee Surf Life Saving Club, which has also been involved with the swim since the beginning.
While Yarralumla Beach isn’t known for its dangerous surf, Broulee SLS president Gary Pettigreve said there were other dangers.
“It’s very cold water and some people can go into shock. You tend to then suck the water in and you need qualified people to pull you out,” he said.
Gary said it was “fantastic” to see how much the event had grown in six short years.
“Great chance to get rid of those winter blues and your inhibitions just disappear,” he said.
Once out of the water, swimmers could gather around fire pits and grab a sausage sandwich and coffee.
The post-swim celebration would continue for those who took part tonight in Dickson.