Waterskiers, swimmers brave chill to mark solstice

Dozens of waterskiers and swimmers celebrated the solstice with a dip in Lake Wanaka on Saturday.

With the water a balmy — or perhaps barmy — 9°C and the air temperature at 8°C, the windless and sunny conditions were nevertheless enjoyed by all who participated in the Hato Hone St John fundraiser.

Revellers warmed up on the shore afterwards with a sizzling sausage, a hot drink, and a soak in a portable hot tub provided by the event supporter, Stoked.

Youngest skier on the day was Hadley Young, 7, of Holy Family School.

He was thrilled to get about half way around Roys Bay, but his ski was all too short.

"It was not too cold and I quite liked it.

"I fell off because the speed was a bit too fast and there were some other boat wakes", he explained.

It was just his fifth attempt at water skiing and he was keen to keep doing it.

"I don’t do this too often, mostly in the summer", Hadley said.

Midwinter skiers and dippers (from left) Wilfred Spearing, Luke Faid, Angus McGill, Eddie...
Midwinter skiers and dippers (from left) Wilfred Spearing, Luke Faid, Angus McGill, Eddie Spearing, Kirsten Craig and Emma Kelly, of Wanaka, soak in a hot tub after getting out of a chilly Lake Wanaka on Saturday. PHOTO: RHYVA VAN ONSELEN
Co-organiser Gary Tweedie, a keen waterskier and swimmer, said the event began 24 years ago as something to do after a morning skiing on snow. However, he did not think any of this year’s participants had snow-skied first.

"It is a great thing to do. Years ago, we were skiing in the mountains in the morning and the lake looked so good we decided to go waterskiing in the afternoon.

"We’ve done it every year since, on or near the shortest day."

When lots of people began turning up he and his co-organiser Graeme Vallance decided to make the event a fundraiser.

Boat drivers donated their time and fuel and people gave donations for a ski, swim, hot food and drinks and a spa.

The midwinter event had helped many charities over the years, including Kahu Youth, and mental health organisations, Mr Tweedie said.

"There is no set money [goals]. We usually raise between $600 and $800 each time. . . We haven’t missed one yet and we are keen to keep going", Mr Tweedie said.

Wanaka Lake Swimmers president Camille Gulick-Yates said the event was a great opportunity for swimmers and waterskiers to get to know each other socially, raise some money for good causes, and raise awareness about co-habitating on the lake with boat users.

"I just think it is great they have hosted this event.

"It is really fun having different beneficiaries each year and it is really nice to see the two communities come together", she said.