Port Campbell surfers say the ocean is helping them navigate the pandemic

Winter solstice swim participants leave the chilly Warrnambool water. Picture: Rob Gunstone
Winter solstice swim participants leave the chilly Warrnambool water. Picture: Rob Gunstone

Researchers are beginning to dive into the health benefits of cold water swimming but it's a remedy south-west Victorian residents have known about for years.

In a new series called 'Touch the blue to beat the blues', coastal Victorian, Port Campbell Surf Lifesaving Club president Scott McKenzie is reflecting on how surfing is beneficial for his mental well-being, especially in challenging times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I find just sitting on my surfboard, out in the ocean, is great for my mental well-being. Sitting out at the Point and looking down our coastline is amazing. Every time I try and be conscious of not taking our amazing part of the world for granted," he said.

Scott McKenzie. Picture: Supplied

Scott McKenzie. Picture: Supplied

"Probably particularly around these times it's important everyone finds their own little thing that gives them joy in any day, whether it's walking around the garden or going on a walking track around an area they may not have been.

"There's plenty of things we can still do to keep us in a positive mental space.

"The ocean has always been my go-to place from when little kid playing at the beach, it's always been my happy place."

Port Campbell teenagers Sullivan, Mitchell, Kobi, Ned and Iagan said catching the waves helped them cope with isolation and connect with friends the social distancing way.

Ned Deppeler, Mitchell Wallace, Harry Stinchcombe, Kobi Lindsay-Collins and Iagan McKenzie prior to COVID-19 restrictions. Picture: Supplied

Ned Deppeler, Mitchell Wallace, Harry Stinchcombe, Kobi Lindsay-Collins and Iagan McKenzie prior to COVID-19 restrictions. Picture: Supplied

Brothers Sullivan and Mitchell Wallace found their time in the water a reassuring constant in a time of change.

"It was great having the Point to ourselves. It was never crowded and the surf was actually pretty good for most of the time," Mitchell said.

"Dad would drop us off in the morning and we'd just stay in the water catching waves until we got hungry. At first there were a few crew around from down the coast but when you could only stay in your own area and surf, we had it to ourselves again."

Kobi Lindsay-Collins relished the opportunity to connect with mates (from a distance) at a time when most of the country was limited to immediate household.

"We had to be careful not to get too close and break the social distancing rules," he said.

"And when the swell was good, we'd have to take it in turns to paddle in and out, and around the jetty without getting too close to each other."

Ned Deppeler found himself feeling as fit as he can remember, allowing him to work with power on the waves and paddle with endurance.

"Hopefully our surfing fitness will be good for our footy when it starts up again," he said.

The state government's Better Health Channel lists stress alleviation, improved flexibility, relaxation and endurance as just some of the benefits of swimming.

Mr McKenzie said while he loved the energy he got from a cold water swim, he definitely went in prepared.

"Even in winter I definitely am not trying to pretend I jump in freely I admit I'm in a full wetsuit and booties and gloves," he said with a laugh. "I still find it good to get out there."

Read Mr McKenzie's two-part series here.

This story 'Touch the blue to beat the blues': How the ocean is boosting mental health in isolation first appeared on The Standard.