Cold water waders take plunge together
JO Halley has always hated the cold.
So much so she rugged up to go to bed each night snuggled under three layers of doona.
But all that changed recently when the 51-year-old from Torquay decided to conquer her fear of the cold by confronting it head-on.
She enrolled in a course to learn the Wim Hof method which is built on three pillars of breathing, cold therapy and commitment.
Jo then took to Facebook last month to set up the ‘Wednesday Ocean Waders’ group, inviting others to join her for a weekly dip in the chilly waters off Fishermans Beach.
The response was immediate and the group now has more than 100 followers, with about nine regular waders who meet at 7am outside Salty Dog Cafe each Wednesday.
“I thought this would be a really good mental challenge for myself,” Jo explains.
“I knew if I tried to do it on my own it wasn’t going to happen – I would press the snooze button and think ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’.
“I said to my son ‘how about we set this group up and give it a go?’ and I honestly didn’t think there’d be anyone else crazy enough to want to join us.
“But they did and going in with the group is amazing.”
The waders, including Jo and 25-year-old son Jesse, meet at 7am before stripping down to their bathers and strolling into the ocean which is currently about 14 degrees.
We go onto the beach and it’s bloody freezing and it’s dark and you take your clothes off and we are standing there with our bathers on,” she says.
“There are a couple of seconds after you take your clothes off where you think ‘what am I doing?’.
“But then we all just calmly walk into the ocean together and go out deep enough until our shoulders are covered and then we stand in a circle and we’re looking at each other.
“It’s so amazing to have that connection with the ocean and with those other people as the sun is coming up.”
The group stands in the cold water for about six minutes before returning to the beach to do some warm-up exercises and then enjoying a quick coffee together.
“I think in a sense it does get easier every time because you know you can do it and that mental strength is saying you can do it,” she says.
“It takes about 30 seconds to control your breath and then you are overcome with a sense of calm.
“It’s just so blissful and you don’t feel cold any more.
“It’s not a case of the longer you stay the more health benefits you get.
“You only have to stay in as long as it takes to control your breath and then you get out.”
Jo has set herself a goal to get 100 waders to hit the water together one morning before winter is over.
She urges anyone interested to give it a try.
“If you were just to come down once you would have this amazing network around you which does make a huge difference,” she says.
“It is easy to press snooze on the alarm and go back to sleep for half an hour but this is a much better way to energise the middle of the week.
“Once you’ve gone in once you can see it is not something to be scared of … it just gives you such a high.
“You go to work and you feel like a warrior.”
To get involved look up ‘Wednesday Ocean Waders’ on Facebook or find the group outside Salty Dog Cafe just before sunrise each Wednesday.