Sumo wrestlers, Batman and a zebra lead the crowd in the mid-winter swim at Caroline Bay
The dogs bounding about in the sun drenched Sunday sea did not know what hit them.
At 10.55am, the four fury friends were the only souls brave enough to take to the water at a chilly Caroline Bay.
And then, at 11am, all hell broke loose when the 27th annual Port FM Mid-Winter Swim hit the brine.
The noise started with the sound of a stampede, the dull thud of 60 pairs of feet slapping the sand from high above the tide line.
Within seconds, the thuds became splashes and then screams as the rush of people cut their way through the surf.
The startled dogs made for the shore as Batman, a scantilly-clad Santa Claus, three inflatable sumo wrestlers and a zebra dashed headlong into the water.
Giggles and laughter drowned the sound of barking dogs as the crowd splashed about - for seconds, rather than minutes - before returning to shore.
Greg Tully knew, when he woke to see a hard frost in Timaru, that wearing a wetsuit was the best policy for a swim on a winter's day.
He ought to know: the event organisers consider the 85-year-old an event veteran, part of the hardy crowd over innumerable years.
"Yes, of course a wetsuit is a good idea. The older you get, the more you think about how cold it's going to be.
"Why would do it? Well, you have to be bloody stupid, don't you."
Leila Brewerton emerged shivering and laughing, convinced her inflatable sumo costume could have been better insulated.
The previously-puffed suit clung cold to her skin, the suit's internal air pump - "it made me cold before I got in" - less energetic than she was.
"I'm looking a bit deflated now... but it was great fun," she said as she and the still inflated Kevin Guthrie half jogged, half waddled up the beach.
A clutch of prizes was handed out as the entrants tried to warm up in the bracing 9 degree celsius air.
Amber Willis, 14, who entered her first mid winter swim when she was 6-years-old, won a seasonally challenged swimming pool.
Her mother Karyn accepted another prize for the family: an inflatable dingy.
Neither prize was likely to get used until the summer, when things were, well, warm.
"Oh, it's too cold. When I hit the water, I lost my breath. I was just thinking 'breathe, I've got to breathe'," Kayrn Willis said.