The crack of dawn has been given a whole new meaning with hundreds braving near freezing conditions for a nude swim in Hobart.

More than 200 have taken part in the Dark MOFO arts festival's Nude Solstice Swim in the River Derwent.

Air temperatures of around 2C failed to deter the swimmers, who hit the water in two groups from sunrise to the sound of Buddhist drummers.

All were issued with red swimming caps and white towels, which were dropped on the beach before squeals could be heard as the swim began.

Most spent several minutes in the water - reportedly a balmy 12C - as they revived a pagan ritual of celebrating midwinter.

"This is about embracing the cold, embracing the winter ... and just celebrating as a community this time of the year and the solstice," organiser Leigh Carmichael said.

The Royal Hobart Hospital had been put on standby and medical teams equipped with defibrillators were on the beach but no incidents were reported.

A pre-swim briefing had told participants: "Don't be a hero."

They emerged to receive a hot chocolate and hot water bottle, while "warm rooms" were also available to them to thaw out.

The event attracted worldwide attention when police initially banned it before agreement was reached to move it, and Hobart's Lord Mayor Damon Thomas was among the dippers.

Swimmers, who came from all over Australia, said they'd felt a special camaraderie.

"It was the kind of thing that you're just totally there, totally present in the moment," said Fiona Kostidis from Melbourne.

"Once you were in the water your body actually felt like it was burning rather than freezing so it was sort of the reverse experience from what you'd expect it to be."

Lifesavers took to the water on surf skis, while a police launch parked offshore.

But Inspector Glen Woolley said only three officers were needed.

"Everyone here enjoyed themselves, there were no public order issues so therefore the event went off very successfully," he said.

But he warned the event was a one-off.

"If someone does it tomorrow the fact is they would be charged," he said.

The nude swim was followed by a "prude swim" for those more partial to wearing a bathing suit.

The Dark MOFO festival, which runs until Sunday, is the latest offering from Hobart's boundary-pushing Museum of Old and New Art.

An exhibit featuring strobe lighting and sound was closed on Friday after eight people were affected, some by seizures.

Mr Carmichael said it would reopen on Saturday after being cleared by health inspectors.

 

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