Celebrating Winter Solstice in Hobart, Tasmania

There’s something truly special about stripping down to your bare skin, wearing nothing but a bright red bathing cap, and wrapping yourself in a big white towel. Your skin might be a bit different to the skin you were born in; it’s definitely hairier and shows signs of aging and sun damage, it might be a bit flappier and danglier, there might be a few rolls of flab, or if you work out a lot and it might still be trim, taut and terrific, like we all were once. But no matter what shape you’re in, once you drop that towel and run flat out for the gentle swirls of the ocean, no one gives a toss. 

That’s exactly how I celebrated the longest night of the year—joining 3 000 other nude bathers, with my daughter Sarah by my side. This annual event is part of the Dark Mofo Festival and celebrates winter solstice in Hobart, Tasmania. This is really just the beginning of winter because “the days lengthen, so the cold strengthens”. That’s what Mum always said but the quote can’t be attributed to her because it was penned in the Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs by Author Unknown long before Mum’s time.

Full coverage of the event

Very early in the morning of June 21, 2024, Sarah threw a bucket of cold water on her car’s windscreen and frantically tried to wipe off the thick layer of frost. But as soon as she cleared a patch, it frosted over again, making the task seem almost sisyphean.

 Finally, with a sufficient patch cleared, we headed to Long Beach, Sandy Bay, arriving shortly after 6 a.m. Hundreds of people were already there, huddled in groups or gathered around a big outdoor fireplace. It was a chilly 3°C, pitch dark, and misty, with a light drizzle. Most people were bundled up in beanies, onesies, fluffy coats, puffer jackets, and even puffer pants—yes, those exist!—along with big, long and short Ugg boots, gloves and scarves. We joined the queue where people were lining up to get their registrations checked and collect their big white towels and red bathing caps. Once that was done, we set off to find a spot on the beach in the designated area for the nude solstice swim.  It was no small feat, but eventually, we secured our place and held our ground.

Countdown

At around 7:00, local drummers rolled in their giant drums along the boardwalk in preparation for the count down.

At 7:15, we had a safety briefing and instructions on how the event would unfold. Then, at 7:30, the drummers started pounding on their big drums, signalling it was time to undress and wrap ourselves in the provided towels.

Then we had to wait another 12 minutes for sunrise. During this time, the drumming grew louder and faster. People were clapping to the beat, laughing, dancing, taking selfies, and quite possibly freezing and freaking out—but nobody seemed to notice.

By sunrise the outdoor temperature had risen to 7C and the water temperature was 12C.

Uncoverage of the event

The tension was building. Suddenly, the drumming stopped. It was sunrise, precisely 7:42 a.m.  Flares went off. Time to drop the towel and make a run for the ocean. Sarah and I locked arms and dashed towards the icy water along with 2 998 others.  It was an incredible experience—thousands of naked bodies running into the ocean together. In that moment, we were all the same, naked and united in our exhilarating plunge.

There was a lot of coverage on the news

The event first bared in 2013, but the Tasmania Police had threatened to arrest all 300 people for displays public indecency. That wasn’t very nice really. However, the police must’ve found other things to do over the ensuing years because this year, 2024, marks the 11th year since the inauguration of the event. And it just so happened, there was a record 3000 getting their gear off and taking the plunge.  

Featured image courtesy of Mercury Newspaper, Tasmania – thankyou

Also, thanks to Sarah for taking the gallery photos of us.

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