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Meet Taupō’s all-season swimming social club with a difference

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Taupō’s Dip and Sip social club take to the lake for a cold water swim at sunrise.

For most people, autumn marks a time when Lake Taupō is something to be enjoyed from a distance, or at least from the comparative warmth of a boat.

One group refuses to hang up the togs just yet, and still meets once a week for a sunrise swim that could be conservatively described as refreshing.

The 20 brave souls at this week’s Dip and Sip Club meeting faced their biggest challenge yet on Wednesday since beginning their swims together in February: Their cars needed defrosting before they headed to the lakefront.

Undeterred by the sub-zero temperatures, they met at their swimming spot opposite Jolly Good Fellows and made a beeline for the completely still, mirror-like water.

A Waikato Regional Council monitoring station showed the lake’s temperature at 15.5C this Wednesday morning, 7C colder than at the height of summer.

As the sun came up, the group took to the chilly water.
As the sun came up, the group took to the chilly water.

For their efforts, they were rewarded with a picture-perfect Taupō morning; in front of them, the snow-dusted mountains of Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu perched serenely, while a lazy mist rolled across from the direction of the Waikato River.

In the far distance, a group of rowers sat atop their boats and closer by, a pair of ducks appeared to check out their rare first-light companions.

Some swimmers opted to deal with the cold by barrelling into the water, whereas others waded in somewhat more gingerly.

Mist rolls onto Lake Taupō from the Waikato River on an autumn morning.
Mist rolls onto Lake Taupō from the Waikato River on an autumn morning.

As the group adapted to the water, first-time dipper and local doctor Robin Chan was on hand to offer some motivation by pointing out that cold water swimming is said to have health benefits.

“We’re together in a blue and green space, which is amazing. Doing it in a group is a big part of the benefit,” she said.

Each week, the Dip and Sip participants warm up after by heading to a local cafe for coffee and a chat.

Fleur (left) and Phoebe Smith founded Taupō's Dip and Sip social club.
Fleur (left) and Phoebe Smith founded Taupō’s Dip and Sip social club.

Dried off and cradling a flat white, Fleur Smith explains how she and her sister-in-law, Phoebe Smith, started the club with six members earlier this year after seeing cold water swimmers on social media.

“We saw other people doing it, like other groups I saw on Instagram back in the UK.

“There were people here who already did it every week, so Dip and Sip has grouped in a lot of people who were already doing it together.”

Combining the swimming and social elements doubled the benefits, as it helped members make the most of the area and meet new people, Fleur says.

“I’m notorious for not getting into the lake, even in the summer.”

Taupō's Dip and Sip social club enjoy a well-earned coffee after their sunrise lake swim.
Taupō’s Dip and Sip social club enjoy a well-earned coffee after their sunrise lake swim.

“There’s also the social side of it- it’s hard to meet people, especially outside of things like sports teams or work.

“It’s surprising how well you get to know people over a half-an-hour coffee.”

Phoebe said it was a great way to get a social fix during the working week.

“It’s nice to have a midweek social.

“[The group of swimmers] changes every week- we have a few shift workers, like nurses and police officers.”

The group varied in age and background, with some taking part only in the ‘dip’ or ‘sip’ elements and others doing both.

Fleur said it was an inclusive space for anyone to join in.

“It’s not in any way serious or extreme, you can get out whenever you want.”

  • For meeting dates and more information, search ‘Dip and Sip Taupō’ on TikTok or Instagram.

Milly Fullick is a journalist based in Taupō. She joined the Taupō & Tūrangi Herald team in 2022.



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