Many would shudder at the mere thought but for Whangārei Heads resident Robyn Ackers, taking a daily winter ice-cold plunge in the ocean is totally addictive.
What's more, she's doing it for a good cause.
The Winter Swim Challenge supports Kenzie's Gift, a New Zealand charity dedicated to helping young Kiwis and their whanāu affected by serious illness or grief.
In 2005, Aucklander Nic Russell and her 3-year-old daughter, Kenzie, were both diagnosed with cancer. Kenzie tragically died that year and Nic discovered there was no mental health support for young Kiwis and their whānau going through serious illness or grief.
She established Kenzie's Gift, providing one-on-one therapy with registered mental health professionals and an extensive library of resources to support tamariki through some of life's toughest challenges.
In 2020, she discovered a love of cold-water swimming.
"Since Kenzie died, life has continued to throw curveballs. Where once I was an avid ocean swimmer, adventure racer and dive instructor, heart failure and a recent diagnosis of Parkinson's has put paid to that.
"So, when I found the benefits of cold-water swimming, I thought there's been a lot of reports about the mental health benefits of cold-water swimming - maybe it could benefit our families through fundraising."
And so began the Winter Swim Challenge. Raising $16,000 last year when she swam every day of June, this year Russell launched the national fundraising campaign aiming to double the amount. So far, the 40 participants who have signed up, have raised almost half the targeted amount.
Ackers, who was already part of a group called Whangārei Heads Ocean Swimmers who swim at various locations around the area on weekends, was one of 40 Kiwis to take the Daily Dipper Winter Swim challenge.
"I love winter ocean swimming but the Winter Swim Challenge offers something new and something more meaningful. I love the work that Kenzie's Gift does to support the mental health of young Kiwis. Like most people, members of my family have had their struggle on and off with mental health.
"I've grown to like the cold and I saw this challenge pop up and thought that would be a really good challenge for me. I've done a lot of reading and research around the benefits of cold-water swimming and I found it intriguing. Mental health is a bit of a passion for me so I thought I'd combine the two."
She said, in comparison to her weekend swim where they're focused on covering distance, it was nice to just "dip and wallow".
"It's so nice just being in the moment and floating and drifting."
If pushed for time, Ackers will resort to her outdoor pool - which is actually a couple of degrees colder than the ocean.
"Ocean swimming in general is a growing sport," said Ackers. "Especially during Covid times, some of the swim groups have grown exponentially."
Said Russell: "[Robyn Ackers] has been doing amazing stuff up there in the waters around Whangārei in all weathers - one of our superhero swimmers for sure!
"I encourage anyone to come out and join me for the remainder of the challenge – through to the end of August. You make up the rules – every day, once a week, just the weekends, or just a one-off swim with friends, whatever - as long as you are submersing yourself in cold water."
So far, Robyn Ackers has raised $1066. To donate, or for further information, go to: https://winterswim.raisely.com/robyn-ackers