How cold can a polar bear
By CRAIG McTEAR
MOST people probably think they're crazy. Others would say they deserve a medal. But for good mates Athene Brentnall, Anne Young and Heatherbelle Lee, their early morning dip is essential. It is a ritual which Athene (a retired nurse), Anne (a retired teacher), and Heatherbelle (a counsellor) have performed every weekday in all seasons for the past decade. Not even winter stops them, but they take heart from the fact the water temperature is warmer than the air. Their routine has an air of military precision, but with plenty of good cheer thrown in. Wearing their bathers under their walking gear, they rendezvous at the North Wall Car Park at 6am for a brisk hike up Muttonbird Island and return to the beach about 40 minutes later. They shed their tracksuits and in the cooler months wrap themselves in bath robes before they head to the beckoning waves. Once their gowns are removed, these water babies waste no time wading into the briny blue for what they know for certain will wake them up, if they already aren't. A 10-minute paddle and bodybash does the trick, before returning to shore and grabbing their bottles of hot water, which they use to was off the saltwater, and then head to their respective homes. "It lights you up for the whole day," Heatherbelle said. "You know you're alive." They marvel at the glorious sunrises over Muttonbird Island, and the frolicking whales and dolphins. "It's a lovely way to start the day," Athene said. "It's just a shame that there are so few of us down here." But they do admit to dreading the end of daylight saving in March, which heralds darker starts to their day. Anne's husband wonders how they can still find things to talk about on their morning outings after all these years. "He stays in bed and I give him a cup of tea when I come home," Anne said. Athene's husband swims from October to June, but not in the winter, unlike his dedicated wife, while Heatherbelle's can occasionally be found fishing while she surfs. Their circle was broken 18 months ago when Heatherbelle moved to Sapphire, but the trio still manage to meet regularly for a morning constitutional.