22 May 2024

Chilled Kiama Kubes 'just a bunch of crazy people who like winter swimming'

| Kellie O'Brien
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Kiama Kubes

Members of Kiama Kubes during one of their swimming events. Photos: Supplied.

Every Sunday morning throughout winter, a group of cold weather warriors bravely take the plunge into the icy Kiama rock pool, diving into a weekly swim ritual that prioritises fun over fitness.

Known as Kiama Kubes, it is a more social alternative to traditional competitive winter swimming clubs, welcoming people of all skill levels and ages in their spirited gatherings and invigorating swims, treasurer Bronwyn Seiden said.

“We don’t have a lot of rules, not like some other winter swimming clubs,” she said.

“We’re not affiliated or registered or anything like that – we’re just a bunch of crazy people who like winter swimming.”

Bronwyn said the club started in 1980 as a male-only swim club in an Olympic pool that no longer exists, but had “changed dramatically” since she joined with her husband 20 years ago.

“I had an interest in getting into some winter swimming because it just invigorates you and it really is such a good thing,” she said.

“They said, ‘Oh, we don’t usually have women’ and I said, ‘Well, it’s about time things changed.’”

Nowadays, the informal group that “doesn’t take itself too seriously” puts on special event days through the year, with points awarded in equal measure to the number of handicaps given out for races, and it all culminates in an end of year awards event.

“The culture has changed a little bit,” she said, laughing.

“If a guy turns up and swims in boardshorts, he’s definitely going to get handicapped.

“There’s one point where you can go out on a rock and you end up a little bit ahead of everyone else – we call that Cheat Rock – and if you start there, you get handicapped.

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“If I’m giving some cheek to my husband that morning, I’m bound to get handicapped again,” she said, laughing.

Among the days were FOK Day, or Friend of Kubes Day, when anyone who brought along a friend was awarded an extra point.

She said further points could be gained during the Tour de Kubes Day for riding a bike from the rock pool over to The Boneyard Beach and Cathedral Rocks area, where members then had a barbecue, followed by a swim in the bay and races out to the island.

If kids turned up, they were known as Ice Chips and had their own dedicated races.

“We have Chip of the Year – so whichever kid turns up often enough and collects some points, they get an award at the end of the year,” she said.

Kiama winter swimming

Kiama Kubes meets on Sundays.

Bronwyn said the grand event was the Annual General Meeting Day, where they travelled by bus to Kangaroo Valley with a load of wood, creating a little firepit on the side of the river.

“We have races swimming across the river and back and, I’m not joking, it is so cold,” she said.

“The coldest I’ve ever swam in was 8.5 [degrees Celsius], but people tell me that it has been colder in the past.

“I don’t know if I could do it.”

After the races, they have a sausage sizzle on the firepit, before returning to Kiama.

“Then we go to the pub and we have our annual general meeting. There’s nothing achieved at the annual general meeting but it’s important to be there,” she said, laughing.

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She said the last swim of the season involved a swim in the harbour, barbecue and club presentation afterwards.

“The other important thing is every week, other than when we have a barbecue, somebody has to have a turn at cooking the soup,” she said of the traditional soup after a swim.

“Then, at the end of the year, they judge best soup of the year and if you win that, you get your name engraved on the coveted soup pot.”

Bronwyn said they attracted between 10 to 20 members each week, with everyone ending up with a nickname, such as Fish, Boneyard, Sludge and King Chocco.

“We’ve got Triple O, which is my husband because he’s continually out of order,” she said.

“My nickname is Bron-No-Win, because I’m not supposed to win anything.

“So it’s just good fun.”

She said members came from a range of occupations and family situations, allowing people to have “social contact with people you don’t have social contact with on a regular basis”.

“It’s a really eclectic bunch of people.”

Bronwyn said when anyone suggested they couldn’t join because they weren’t good swimmers, she responded with: “That’s the whole point”.

Kiama Kubes start each year on the first Sunday in May and meet every Sunday at 10 am through until September, depending on when the AFL and NRL grand finals are held. New members are welcome to attend or visit the Facebook page to learn more.

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