Canberra winter solstice swim
Two originals from the first Ian Lindeman Memorial Winter Solstice Swim in 2017 were chosen to be the flag-‘barers’ of this year’s event. Photo: Kerrie Brewer.

Canberra’s Winter Solstice Swim will be back for 2020 with big smiles, freezing water, wood fires, and the famous ‘cheeky’ photos, albeit in a vastly different form this time around.

Some of the bravest, most cold-tolerant Canberrans will still plunge into Lake Burley Griffin from Yarralumla Bay on the shortest day of the year, however, this year’s Ian Lindeman Memorial Winter Solstice Swim will be capped at just two participants.

But that’s not the only way this year’s iteration will be different to the last. More importantly, Ian Lindeman, who founded the event in 2017, passed away on 20 November 2019 from liver cancer.

“He built up the event, and had steely determination as well as a heart of gold … He was really looking on his deathbed for it to be handed over and we were very happy to continue,” Winter Solstice Swim Chairperson Ben Johnston said.

“He rang me, ‘Ben, I’ll be dead next week’ … it was heartbreaking, and I take it very personally,” Mr Johnston said.

In its first three years, the event grew exponentially. Last year, 170 participants toughed it out and buffed it out in the cold in minus-two-degree weather.

“We were looking this year to get around 350, maybe 400 people, which would get us to the limits of this area or close to, and then everything just got turned upside down,” Mr Johnston said.

Two originals from the first swim, Peter Lindeman and Geoff Arney, were chosen to be the flag-‘barers’ of this year’s event.

“There were actually no applications possible to have public events around the lake (at the time), it actually just wasn’t something you could do,” Mr Johnston said.

“For the purposes of getting it to happen, I rebranded it as a photoshoot, which seemed to satisfy the regulatory authorities.

“We’re still having to get a nudity instrument passed by the Minister, which takes effect for one hour only on 21 June.”

Canberra winter solstice charity swim
This year 100% of the Ian Lindeman Memorial Winter Solstice Swim’s profits will go to Lifeline Canberra to support the community’s hard-working mental health support workers.

Mr Johnston explained that everyone who participates in the event walks away having enjoyed an “amazing experience”.

“I’ve just watched that grow as the numbers grow, and that sense of being part of something happening … the camaraderie that engenders is huge.

 “The whole idea with the swim is that you refresh your soul and get a sense of renewal from washing away the negative energy and starting the new solar year afresh.

“We’ll do that in a symbolic way this year, but obviously the biggest outcome that Ian wanted with the swim is to raise awareness,” Mr Johnston said.

This year, 100% of the event’s profits will go to Lifeline Canberra to support the community’s hard-working mental health support workers.

Lifeline Canberra CEO Carrie Leeson said their telephone crisis support service has detected heightened levels of anxiety and stress throughout the community of late.

“That is something that the crisis supporters have had to come to terms with; it’s almost like we’re all living in a Lifeline call at the moment.

“To maintain their wellbeing, to be able to provide a highly effective service to an individual who needs it, has required quite a lot of additional supervision and investment,” Ms Leeson said.

To donate or for more information, visit wintersolsticecharityswim.com.

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