Ocean Swimming: Australian Winter Ritual Americans Will Never Understand

"A slice of ocean served chilled."

Drinking blistering coffee even in summer. Paying for petrol after you’ve filled up. Drop bears. Utes. Rugby League. There are a lot of Australian quirks Americans find bizarre.

However, while some may be counterintuitive or, in Americans’ eyes, backwards (see: the mullet), there are other cultural cornerstones Those Across The Pond ought to be jealous of.

Case in point: the following photo.

“A slice of ocean served chilled. It’s winter after all and I get the feeling we’re going to miss it when it’s gone. 5 days left! Better get in!”

Posted by Sydney based photographer Sprout Daily – whose Instagram account shares daily images of Manly and its surrounds (in this case, neighbouring Freshwater beach) – the image depicts a classic coastal Australian ritual.

While not everyone does this on the daily, this winter act of worship is sculpted into the Australian psyche to the point where even those that are on a bus at 7am and slumped in the office by 9am follow accounts like Sprout Daily to get their dose.

Across the harbour, Morning Bondi captures similar Life At Dawn (and beyond) shots for Eastern Suburbs residents to get their fix too, capturing a midwinter post a few weeks back:
“Dive in, water is warm at the moment: 18 degrees (at least it’s warmer than outside). The hardest thing is to run to the cold showers for a rinse but it’s by far the best way to wake up.”


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Australia, of course, is not the only nation where people enjoy swimming in winter. But we’d argue in other places where people swim all year (think Hawaii) it’s not quite the same, as the water is consistently warm. Likewise, in places where swimming is a (speaking generally) summer only pastime, like the UK, the water is too fiercely cold for winter dips to catch on.


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In America, despite many regions enjoying a similar climate to Australia’s East Coast, and despite surfing being equally a ~thing~ DMARGE understands winter swimming is more the domain of fitness freaks (we say that in the most loving way possible) like Laird Hamilton, and is not shared to the same extent by the office Brenda’s and primary school teacher Brians (and retiree Richards) as it is in Australia.


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Swimming groups like Manly’s Bold & Beautiful – which completes an ocean swim between Manly and Shelly beach every morning – go a way to showing how institutionalised a freezing winter dip is Down Under.

The benefits of cold water therapy are well documented, as are the mental health benefits of socialising regularly.


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With the pandemic making public gatherings a target for local Sydney councils to keep under control this coming summer, let’s hope we can find a way to facilitate early morning swims safely.

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