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Nudists take the plunge

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There was a time when getting your tackle out at dawn in Hobart meant trying to bag a few flathead.

But more than 500 brave souls have taken the brisk plunge into the River Derwent for Hobart’s second winter solstice nude swim, which is part of the Dark MOFO arts festival.

That more than doubled last year’s inaugural swim, which saw 230 embracing the midwinter.

Temperatures were kinder too, with the air around 7C on a clear morning and the water a relative bath at 11C.

“You get your gear off and you’re all the same,” swimmer David Day said on Sunday.

“You’re just people, you’re beings and all just sharing it together.”

Summoned by the beats of a Buddhist drum, participants clad only in their souvenir red swimming caps took the plunge at sunrise, exactly 7.42am.

Plenty of screams were audible but surf life savers reported no problems as the swimmers made for a row of buoys around 50 metres off Long Beach at Sandy Bay.

After a controversial lead-up last year which resulted in the swim being moved from a different location, police are now describing it as a “very well organised event”.

A small group patrolled the area, while officers also waited offshore in a police boat.

The event looks like remaining an annual fixture and Hobart Lord Mayor Damon Davies, who swam last year, is embracing the potential for the island capital to become a nude swim destination.

“I think it could become one of the special events of the year and this whole beach will be taken over,” he said.

Organisers, who were asked to cap the numbers in 2013, now say they expect the event to grow again in 2015.

“We have a philosophy that anyone that wants to swim can swim,” Dark MOFO’s Kate Gould said.

“It’s a nice problem to have if everybody wants to swim.”

Dark MOFO, the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)’s winter festival, has taken Hobart by storm with tourists and locals flocking to its concerts, exhibitions and waterfront feast.

Organisers are confident of bettering last year’s attendance figure of 128,000.