From LA to Langebaan, from Hastings to Hermanus, and all ports in between, full-moon dips are, ahem, bobbing up all round the peninsula.
You’re guaranteed to squeal. No matter your age. For one evening a month. You’ll have a giggle. You’ll connect, and you’ll reconnect. And, who knows, you might end up swimming a Robben Island one of these days.
That’s the cheery promise from event organiser Moxy Tribe’s Cecilia Schutte. Cecilia,a swim coach with an impeccable swim pedigree (including, wait for it, a triple Robben Island), decided she wanted to try a spot of moon-bathing after reading about it in a UK swim magazine. It was a bit like that Kevin Costner movie, Field of Dreams. “Build it and they will come.”
They did come. They are coming. Loads of like-minded selenophiles.
Quick bit of background mythology. Selene, ancient Greek goddess of the moon, was madly in love with Endymion, a human shepherd boy, bit of a hunk, illegitimate prince. She begs boss god Zeus to grant Endymion eternal youth and immortality, so he’d never leave her. She then discovers how cute he looks as he sleeps, and it’s back to boss god, instant granting of divine desire, and Zeus zaps Endymion into a state of eternal slumber in a cave on a mountain. Selene visits him every night. They have 50 daughters. Those ancient Greeks knew how to spin a yarn. To this day, if you dig the full moon,you are aselenophile.
At first, last March, just a few came. Cecilia then missed a month, and people complained! 30 people came to the next full moon dip. Then 50. By November, there were 100 people. 200 by December, most of them wearing tinsel, Santa hats and Yuletide grins. Last month, more than 300 souls pulled in.
At the last full moon just after Valentine’s Day, around 400 frisky souls pitched, with at least one wearing the slogan “I’m single and here to mingle,” on their cozzie.
People are well aware of the many reported benefits of cold water immersion. Swimmers report feelings of intense euphoria after a swim, as the body releases powerful “hug hormones” including oxytocin, and endorphins. Swimmers note other benefits too, such as a boost to circulatory and immune systems, and a flagging libido, and even hair regrowth.
But there’s something more intangible too. Enter the full moon aspect.
“People are hungry for this. After two years of Covid pulling people apart, we have the one place where it’s safe to reconnect,” says Cecilia. “For one evening a month, you know that you will laugh, you will squeal like a child, you won’t be depressed. You’ll be off the couch, out of your comfort zone doing something you’d never normally do. People who haven’t been in the ocean for years are suddenly coming along and connecting to the ocean. It’s like a movement!”
Around the peninsula is Anya of the Flamingals swim group. She started the Flamingals last May at Clifton with just six bobbers, all of them neon lights in their swim floats. The Flamingals also do regular tidal pool hops, which is a great way to introduce newbies to ocean swimming.
All for a spot of non-commercial, community joie de vivre. And it’s such a vibe! Phoenix Open Water Swimming Club members are also keen selenophiles. They printed their first official poster this month. Rukeya Warner says that combining the “freeing” experience of swimming with the mystical nature of a full moon creates a very special space. “You feel a sense of positivity, focus and lightness. Stress and anxiety seems to fall wayward, and suddenly you feel free.”
Fellow club member, the man behind the full moon dips, Paul Abrahams, says that he could never understand why people rushed home after afternoon swims! He says that some 16 people, young and old, rave about their new hobby – full moon swimming. Unfortunately parent-teacher meetings coincided with their last fill moon dip but the bug has bitten.
And people who have only gotten back into the sea for the first time since childhood, might suddenly find themselves swimming Robben Island, says Cecilia, who has several of her full mooners now enrolled on Robben Island training courses. Cecilia has given several motivational talks in schools and water safety workshops for disadvantage youth, and now plans to launch the Moxy Tribe Openwater Youth Program soon, for a wider section of young swimmers.
“It’s about ordinary people like myself doing extra-ordinary things. Anyone is capable of achieving anything in their lives, no matter their age or upbringing. It is what you do with what you have that defines you. Some are just starting out in open water as 650m beginners, but hooked. We have added about 20 from our full moon group to our training group recently.
“I get tons of people messaging on social media or coming up to me thanking me for this event as they feel alive again in their lives.”
Rukeya agrees. “Who wants to join in? “Anyone seeking the serenity the sea brings them,” she says.