Swimmers battle the chill head-on
Dressed as an invading Viking, Andy Cowling conquered the cold and the competition at the Kaiteriteri Midwinter Swim yesterday.
Originally from Lancashire, England but now living in Lower Moutere, Cowling said he had a Viking helmet "kicking around at home, and my wife knocked up the costume this morning". The outfit was completed with a fearsome flail mace he picked up at a $2 shop on Sunday morning.
Before dashing into the Tasman Bay tide along with about 50 other swimmers at the annual fundraiser for Riwaka School, Cowling joked that his mace's spiked ball could serve as a flotation device, and that he was compelled to repeat the swim because last year's "wasn't cold enough".
The water was an almost balmy 16 degrees Celcius. Back on dry land, Cowling said that as a "hard Nordic", he found the water "toasty and warm".
His efforts won him the title of best dressed man and a sampler pack from Riwaka's Hop Federation brewery.
Riwaka School principal Chris Sutton said she had been told that it was the warmest midwinter swim in many years.
Sutton raised more than $600 by agreeing to take a sponsored plunge, but after getting out of the water, she wasn't convinced about the warm temperature.
"It was freezing cold. I got all the way under - for $600, I thought I had to do it properly."
Some swimmers adopted the strategy of staying in the water until they were numb. Amber Goodall and Yani O'Brien-Anderson stayed in for 40 minutes. The Riwaka School friends, both 12 and dressed as fairies, said that after about 10 minutes they couldn't feel the cold.
They were trying to outlast Poppy Wilson-Howarth and Molly Wilson, and lasted another five minutes after their rivals got out.
The day also featured an Englefield duck race, with 1100 numbered yellow plastic ducks tipped into the Kaiteriteri Estuary and bobbing out to sea on the outgoing tide. Eighty numbers carried prizes sponsored by local businesses.
Organiser Andrea Tomlinson said she was impressed by the "fantastic turnout" of spectators and the sponsorship from the local community. The fundraising total was not available this morning but Sutton said the proceeds would go towards a projector and screen for the school's performing arts centre and outdoor speakers for the playground.
The Nelson Mail