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The tradition of celebrating Winter Solstice with a chilly swim

With the winter solstice creeping up on June 21, fair-weather swimmers and hardy winter battlers alike are preparing to celebrate the beginning of lengthening days and shortening nights – in other words, summer is on its way!

Astronomically, the winter solstice, also called the hibernal solstice, occurs when either of Earth’s poles reaches its maximum tilt away from the sun. This happens once a year in each hemisphere, with the winter solstice being the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year, when the Sun is at its lowest daily maximum elevation in the sky.

This year’s winter solstice will see the sunset at 4:54 pm after only rising at 7:00 am, giving us only 9 hours 54 minutes of daylight. After the winter solstice, the sun will start to rise earlier in the day and set later in the day giving us more daylight, which is great for open water swimmers who’ll get more time to enjoy the water – especially before and after work. 

The winter solstice is celebrated in many different ways in different cultures and rituals for many involve holidays, gatherings, festivals and big celebrations. 

It comes as no surprise that swimmers and water lovers would celebrate the winter solstice with an icy cold swim, with celebrations ranging from ice-cold dips to nude swims.

It’s perhaps the members of the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) at the Casey research station that take the prize for the coldest winter solstice swim, with the team cutting through thick ice and taking a dip in the icy waters beneath.

Closer to home, the Ian Lindeman Memorial Winter Solstice Nude Charity Swim in Canberra is one of the more famous Australian swims, along with Tasmania’s Dark Mofo. More recent swims to join in the celebration are the Sunshine Coast Solstice Swim and theWinter Solstice Sunset Swim in Williamstown, Victoria.

With swimming groups throughout the country likely to be celebrating in their own unique way, Tuesday, 21 June may well be the most popular day to swim this winter!

Australian Winter Solstice Swim Events

Swimmers in the Ian Linderman Memorial head into Lake Bury Griffin in the nude to celebrate the winter solstice.

Ian Lindeman Memorial Winter Solstice Nude Charity Swim

Canberra, Tuesday 21 June 

The Ian Lindeman Memorial Winter Solstice Nude Charity Swim was organised by Ian Lindeman in 2017 to raise funds for Lifeline in memory of his son who committed suicide.

The swim encourages swimmers to wash away negativity and feel a sense of renewal for the upcoming solar year by refreshing spirits for a good cause.

Enjoy the shortest day of the year by stripping off and swimming in the chilly waters of Lake Burley Griffin.

Find out more via the event website

Dark Mofo Swim 

Tasmania, Wednesday 22 June

The Dark Mofo Swim is one of the most popular winter solstice swims each year, with this year’s Wednesday night swim having already sold out.

Over 1,500 people brave the three-degree air temperature and often below ten-degree water temperatures to enjoy the annual nude swim to mark the shortest day of the year in Hobart’s Derwent River. 

Whatever way you choose to celebrate the winter solstice make sure you have plenty of warm clothes to rug up with including jackets, boots, gloves and a warm drink.

Find out more via the event website

Swimmers head off on a more traditional ocean swim to celebrate the winter solstice on the Sunshine Coast.

Sunshine Coast Solstice Swim

Queensland, Sunday 26 June 

The Sunshine Coast Solstice Swim is held every year at Alexandra Headland to raise funds for the Alexandra Headland Rotary Club while celebrating the shortest day of the year.

Held on the Sunday following the official winter solstice, the event offers one-kilometre, two-kilometre or five-kilometre ocean swims in the beautiful Alexandra Headland Bay. 

This year the Rotary Club has added an international touch to the swim with Shelterboxes for Ukraine. Part of the proceeds from the event will go towards delivering ‘Shelterboxes’ to the displaced Ukrainian community for those folks that have nothing. 

Find out more via the event website and read more about the Shelterbox initiative.

Winter Solstice Sunset Swim

Victoria, Saturday, 18 June

The Winter Solstice Sunset Swim is hosted by the Melbourne Open Water Swimming Club and will be held on Saturday, 18 June – three days earlier than the shortest day.

Billed as being renewing, refreshing and rewarding, the event promises you’ll create a memory you’ll have forever.

Swum over a lit-up 800m course, you’ll wear a glow stick on your cap and a team on boards & kayaks will guide the way. If you are lucky enough you might even get to see bioluminescence, a glowing organism in the water that is magical to see.

Find out more via the event website

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