Real stories from Australia's craziest family.
Nude Solstice Swim - or why you should GET NAKED!
sunday, 24th June 2018
My dream to be a writer is still evolving – the trick to pursuing any creative passion is working out how to make it pay. Flavour-of-the-month philosopher Jordan B Peterson summed this up recently in an interview – “Most creatives will be dead by the time they work it out,” he said.
So I feel pretty pleased to have wrangled a few reviewing gigs each year to coincide with a little escape down to Hobart for the Dark Mofo festival. It’s a real treat to disentangle myself from family and city life for a week, saturating my soul with a random assortment of music, dance and art!
I scroll down the email of gigs I’ll be reviewing this year. What wonderful things will be on there this time – Contemporary dance? A puppet show accompanied by opera? An ambient multimedia experience?
My eye snags on the last line – Nude Solstice Swim, it says, “from the perspective of a swimmer”. Yikes.
Conveniently, my past jaunts to Hobart have concluded before this event takes place. Safely back in Sydney when the images have flooded the morning television broadcasts friends have messaged to ask if I’m in amongst the skinny-dippers. ‘Not on your life!’ I’ve messaged back, but secretly I’ve always wondered if I would, given the chance.
And now, like a beer-fuelled dare to streak across the Sydney Cricket Ground, or run trouser-less round the snooker table, God’s chocolate wheel has spun and declared me the winner of the grand prize – getting naked in front of 1,500 people before plunging my goose-flesh white body into the freezing winter ocean – and I won’t even be drunk! I’ll be stone cold sober.
Now, let’s get this straight - I’m a person who flinches at a cold toilet seat. I don’t know what scares me more about the Nude Solstice Swim – the nakedness or the idea of freezing my tits off. Should I really entertain doing it?
I decide to put it to a vote on Facebook, the choice is simple: ‘Say I’m allergic to water’ or ‘Get a grip and let rip!’
The vote tallies up to 89% in favour – only three kind people along with myself has said not to do it. Thirty-six surprisingly evil people, including my husband, have used the virtual voting stick to push me in. As the old saying goes – who needs enemies with friends like these?
6am on the shortest day of the year, when even Planet Earth has her Map Of Tassy tilted shyly away from the sun… I wonder if I’ll be brave enough to unveil mine. When my alarm goes off it’s tempting just to turn over in my warm bed.
I’ve decided to walk to Sandy Bay, the sky is dark, pink clouds illuminating the horizon. It’s a long walk, about an hour, but it will give me time to think.
A lot of the ideas at Dark Mofo centre around facing your fears, on my first trip down a giant neon arch shimmered on the wet asphalt – FEAR EATS THE SOUL it declared. This year, there was a room with a giant spider, bigger than the size of a car suspended from the rafters, where you were asked to write down your biggest fear to be burnt at the conclusion of the festival – ‘Becoming boring,’ I’d scrawled.
The sky grew brighter as I walked, I thought about the clunky rigidity of the Gregorian calendar that dictated the days of the festival, and about the fluidity of the solar system, the spinning vortex of planetary arcs that cooled and warmed seasons, triggered the colour of autumn leaves, coaxed seeds to shoot and eggs to crack… Ancient cultures had celebrated celestial events, equinox and solstice, with varying traditions – fasting, sacrifices, feasts and gift-giving. In theory, marking the longest night with a ritualistic gesture appealed to me too… but would I be able to do it?
Suddenly the sky seemed very light, I checked the time and realised the walk was taking longer than I had planned, I began to panic – After all the hesitation, what if I missed it!
I began to run! Finally I saw it, the distant mob of white towels and red bathing caps, huddling on the shore like a colony of odd looking penguins!
Around the colony, divided from the action, the clothed people – TV crews and reporters, a few intrigued kids and spectators who were being gently repelled by guards. I ran and approached the border breathless, this was it! The guard went to turn me away, ‘Am I too late?’ I asked, flashing my media pass. Her stern look broke into a smile – ‘Hurry!’ she said, ‘You’ve got 5 minutes!’
I grabbed my cap and towel, there was no time to hesitate – no time to worry about unshaved parts or the cosmetics of wobbly bits! I threw my bag to the ground and began sloughing off my clothes, my heavy coat and winter gear, gloves and beanie fell to the heap, then tops, singlet. I wrapped the flimsy towel around me and proceeded to remove the last, jeans, socks and undies.
I pulled the red swimming cap hurriedly over my head and joined the throng of colourful penguins. The sand was dark and hard and cold, so cold my feet immediately began hurting. I saw others lifting theirs, jogging on the spot, all around were smiles and giggles, the anticipation of something a bit crazy about to happen, a collective madness, we were here offering ourselves up in the hope of gaining something greater, to be a part of something unrestrained and wild!
I looked around, a sea of skin, shoulders, necks and latex red caps, an occasional tattoo to break the uniformity. A few keen exhibitionists were already shrieking and flashing their towels. A thin, smiling older man with childlike mischief in his eyes called out, ‘What the heck!’ and threw his into the air.
A gong sounded, flares erupted, I dropped my towel along with the others and followed the lead of the pack that rushed to the water like charging buffalo.
The water was shockingly cold, I screamed but kept running forwards along with the pack, some charged and dived, began swimming out to the floating barriers. The water moved up my shins and thighs, moved past my stomach, was so icy I could feel it sucking the breath from me! Finally I could go no further, could sustain the pain of the cold no more! I had done what I came to do. I dunked myself completely and emerged screaming and victorious – I was not boring!
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Who's in for the Nude Solstice Swim?
Photo Credit: Dark Mofo/Rémi Chauvin
Image Courtesy Dark Mofo, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
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