Mangawhai’s beaches attract hordes of swimmers throughout summer, the chilled water an understandable cool reprieve from the scorching sun, and by the time the colder seasons roll in, most visitors are satisfied to keep their bods well clear of the winter waves – with the exception of a few locals that is.
For the last few years around mid-June, a daring bunch of souls decide that a drop in temperature is no reason to keep out of the frosty sea, and take part in a mid-winter dip, even if only for a couple of minutes.
This year on June 26, around 20 people took the plunge, including the Focus team, either running towards or hesitantly tip-toeing into the water, after a few words by Kaiwaka-Mangawhai councillor Peter Wethey, who notably stayed dry on shore.
Organiser of the annual event, local woman and regular cold-water dipper Belinda Vernon says despite two date changes ‘to fit in with Mother Nature’, there was still a great turnout.
“It was wonderful to see,” she says. “This is the third year of the Mangawhai mid-winter swim and the numbers have increased each year, some people actually look forward to it! It was heart-warming to hear one swimmer had been conditioning for the swim with daily dips in the estuary, and another chose the swim ahead of watching soccer.”
Vernon is also a member of a hardy bunch of all-year swimmers who swim one or two kilometres at Ocean Beach or the estuary ‘if the surfs too big’, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7.45am and 8am on Saturdays.
“For those who enjoy ocean swimming, you’re welcome to join us… keep an eye out for the fluorescent swim buoys!”
Many Kiwis around the country take the plunge into chilled winter waters around June 21, and various research points to a number of health benefits from cold water swimming including a boost to an individual’s immune system, better circulation, lower blood pressure, reduced stress, improved sleep, an endorphin high and possibly improved libido.
“Whether it’s to confront the cold, celebrate summer is on its way, or simply for the fun of it, everyone walks out of the water absolutely buzzing!” says Belinda.
Plunging into the 16-degree water ‘which isn’t actually that cold’, locals, and the Focus editor who impressively drove all the way from Whangarei to take part, dared to take on the winter waves at the recent mid-winter dip. “Apologies to those who missed the swim because of the change of date,” organiser Belinda Vernon said. “We hope to see you next year.”