The fresh sea-breeze kissed my skin and breathed some life back into my hungover head as I dug my feet deeper into the damp morning sand and eyed the crazy folk take subtle nips of sherry and stamp their feet as they prepared themselves for a morning swim in the Atlantic. With a count down of 3, 2, 1 they were off, racing towards the icy water with a combination of glee and grit in varying measures. Some entrants really went for it, embracing their early morning dip with more than a few strokes of limbs they could surely no longer feel, while others – whether sensible or cowardly – just wet their feet and made their way back to the picnic spots.
There was some method in their madness. It was the annual Polar Bear swim, which raises funds for charity through donations and the sale of branded ‘Polar Bear Swim’ t-shirts and thermal skins. It’s not a huge fundraiser, and the idea of swimming in winter is crazy… but it’s an enormously likeable idea, and clearly a winning morning out for many families, whether swimmers or supporters. While moms and dads mingled with one another sharing stories (presumably of other daring exploits) the 1st Muizenberg Sea Scouts provided hot beverages and snacks, and children played games in the surf and toddlers befriended one another over the building of sandcastles.
I found my cynicism evaporating. The sense of community warmed parts the sherry couldn’t reach, and if nothing else, it was a great cure-all after a late night out. OK, so I didn’t swim, but I got as far as taking my shoes and socks off. And I’ve got the t-shirt to prove it.
The Polar Bear swim is an annual event on Clifton 4th Beach. It normally takes place on the Saturday closest to the winter solstice (21 June).