Big freeze on Freo’s northern beaches

Leighton residents usually prefer their ice rattling around in a cocktail glass but exceptions have been made in the pursuit of Guinness World Record fame.

More than 500 brave souls of all ages – locals and ring-ins – have jumped into a dizzying array of inflatable ice baths chasing the prestigious title of ‘most-people-freezing-their-bits-off-at-once.’

Ice baths have been all the rage with over-cooked footballers and cricketers for years. Then recently, weekend warriors have dived in.

They’ve also attracted the worried, well, desperately seeking the next fix after naturopathy and crystals haven’t delivered.

The jury’s out on efficacy but the rollout of cold therapy looks unstoppable.

The Leighton freeze was organised by wellness organisation One Life Live It, which extols the virtues of cold water immersion. It “introduces a good stress, hermetic stress, to the body” which can bring about “a big cascade of hormone, immune and neurotransmitter effects”.

It sounds terrific, but you wouldn’t know it from some of the faces on the ice bathers at Leighton as thousands of bags of ice were emptied into the portable pools and the recorded water temp dropped to negative 1.5 degrees.

Yet, the atmosphere was distinctly party, participants having been reminded at the pre-immersion briefing that profits from the event were going to Beyond Blue and to find a way to live life to the full.

It didn’t go without a hitch, the truck delivering ice struggling to negotiate the tight bends around Leighton Boulevard, taking out a couple of shrubs and momentarily getting stuck.

Luckily, Leighton activist and former Liberal Party powerbroker Noel Crichton-Browne was quickly on hand, having a gentle say on matters, and waving his arms around directing traffic.

Bobcats were still pushing their way through delivering ice as participants milled around the baths, ordinarily a health and safety no-no but not today, and not with a world record on the cards. Mercifully, Freo Mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge, an excited partaker, was looking the other way at the time.

The ice finally in place, the baths were loaded up, and braver people than you and I jumped in for the three minutes needed to qualify as the new record.

“Up to your necks with only the top of your shoulders showing above the water,” said the man in the Guinness World Record blazer.

At just after 1pm (and not a minute too soon), the long three minutes were up and the deep frozen emerged from their plastic tubs. Bluish flesh was in abundance, everyone deeply grateful it was over but also wildly euphoric in the moment. The ice bathers jumped out excitedly, hugged and kissed people they’d never met before, and hollered with happiness. It was all very Hillsong but without the tax deduction.

All up, 509 people can now officially call themselves a world record holder.

Normal service quickly resumed and the punters ran to the ocean under blazing sun, resuming battle with the infestation of blowies that arrived around New Year. And hoping the visiting sharks – one reported on the shark App at just 6m offshore at Leighton last week – would stay away.

Danger everywhere on the northern beaches.

* Words by John McGlue. Photographs by John McGlue and Jean Hudson


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