If you were thinking of shaking off 2020 early with a bracing dip in Lake Burley Griffin on the winter solstice on June 21, you might have to think again. At least, if you were planning on being part of the official Winter Solstice Nude Charity Swim, which is now in its fourth year.
Because this year, only two swimmers will be allowed to participate in the event due to coronavirus restrictions. We would have thought if you could have a drink in the pub with 20 mates you could jump naked into the freezing waters of the lake with a bunch of strangers, but apparently not.
Ian Lindeman Memorial Nude Charity Swim chair Ben Johnson understands the frustration but says there will still be ways to support the beneficiary of this year's swim, Lifeline Canberra.
"There was actually no way the NCA (National Capital Authority) would allow any events by the lake so we had to reclassify it as a photo shoot essentially," Ben said.
"And as long as it wasn't open to the public - it was really important it wasn't open to the public. So, therefore, we couldn't invite anyone to participate, which was a really tough decision but it was the only way we could get it to happen in any form. Because, obviously the first year after Ian passing, we had to make it work somehow."
Ian Lindeman started the swim in 2017 to raise money for charities in the fight against mental illness. He had battled cancer and sadly died last November, aged 70.
Ian's brother Peter and friend Geoff Arney, another of the original nude swimmers, will be the two participants in the swim this year, at 7.43am on June 21. Ian's son Rohan stood in for Peter this week at the launch of the 2020 swim. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, that with the least daylight hours of any other day in the year. It marks the start of the days getting longer and the gradual return to warmer days.
And while many might have been contemplating taking an icy dip, "to wash away negativity and feel a sense of renewal for the upcoming solar year", especially given the apocalyptic nature of the last six months, with bushfires, hail and a global pandemic, the message is: please don't come down to the lake on the winter solstice this year
You won't be allowed in the waters.
"We'll actually have people stopping people from doing that," Ben said. "It's just hard. The invigoration and renewal is a process for people that they don't get this year, which is a bit sad. This year is just about shining a spotlight on mental health and Lifeline Canberra who are supporting a lot of people at the moment, so I'm hoping we raise a lot of funds for them. And, then next year, we just go to a whole other level. We've just to look ahead to next year."
Last year's swim attracted 170 people.
"So we were aiming for 350 this year but obviously that will be next year," Ben said.
Lifeline Canberra chief executive officer Carrie Leeson confirmed there had been elevated levels of community stress during the pandemic.
"We are seeing a heightened level of anxiety and fear amongst community members. It is important to state that this is a healthy response to this enormous crisis. Whilst it is a healthy response though, we need to take steps to care for ourselves," Ms Leeson said.
Ben said Peter and Geoff would be swimming for all of Canberra.
"While you can't register for this year's event, you can support the swimmers and help us fight mental illness by donating through our website wintersolsticecharityswim.com," he said.
All funds raised go to support Lifeline Canberra's 24/7 Crisis Support Service 13 11 14.