Cold and Miserable, But Worth It? Reviewing My 5.00am Winter Solstice Swim

For the longest time, there’s been a Tasmanian tradition that I’ve wanted to participate in. The Dark Mofo Winter Solstice Nude Swim. Each year, as a part of Dark Mofo’s festival programming, hundreds of people dead sprint into Hobart’s River Derwent. They do so while naked and on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice.

I’ve always imagined that such a swim would rejuvenate my existence. I’ve imagined that I’d emerge from the water as a year-round ocean swimmer. Someone who has fruit for breakfast each day. 

However, I’ve never had an opportunity to attend Dark Mofo’s Winter Solstice Nude Swim. Nor have I had the opportunity to attend any of the other nude solstice swims that take place around the country. 

So, this year, I did something incredibly rational. The day before the solstice, 21 June, I decided to invite my buddy Simon Arthur over for a sleepover. I asked him if he wanted to go for a 5.00am nude swim in a secluded part of Gordon’s Bay. For some reason, he said yes. 

This is what happened next. 

My Winter Solstice Swim

On June 22, Simon and I were in his car at 5:10am. We were driving down to Gordon’s Bay

I said to Simon, “How are you feeling?”

“I’m a little bit worried,” said Simon, “because I’ve never done anything like this before. But, you know, I trust my friend Joel Burrows. I’m tired. I’m exhausted, but keen as well.”

I then said, “What are you hoping the swim will do for you?”

“Wake me up,” said Simon.

As we arrived at Gordon’s Bay, the fresh air was 8C, and the temp of the water was 18C. What’s more, being up so early made me feel a tad ill. I hoped our swim would help.

We walked down the beach, climbed across some rocks, and were then enveloped by darkness.

Gordon’s Bay
Image: Joel Burrows
Simon Arthur and Joel Burrows
Image: Joel Burrows

Simon asked me if I was ready. I said yup. I stripped off. I bungled down to the water. I jumped.

At first, I thought the water was the same temperature as my body. I thought the water was warm. But I was wrong. I think I was just experiencing shock. As I submerged the rest of my body, a rush of adrenaline and consciousness filled my body. 

Suddenly, my body felt fresh, alive, and like a thousand salmon were running through my veins. I also felt like my body was freezing down. I gave a scream of both life and death. 

My Winter solstice swim
Image: Simon Arthur

After paddling around and getting some cheeky pics, I asked Simon if he was going to jump in. After hearing me scream, he decided that he was good. Which, honestly, is a respectable choice. We stan our friends having boundaries. 

Simon then asked me how I felt. I said, very awake. Simon replied, me too. According to him, just waking up at 5.00am revitalised his spirits. Maybe my swim was unnecessary. 

So, did this winter solstice experience make me into a year-round swimmer? Am I now a person who will have fruit for breakfast each day?

Well, it most likely hasn’t reshaped who I am as a person. However, I did have some miserable fun doing it.

I therefore give my winter solstice nude swim a respectable 7.2/10.

Related: What to Expect From Dark Mofo Festival, From a First Timer

Related: I Asked My Pals for a Friendship Performance Review, and the Results Were Pure Chaos

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