Ken ‘Feet’ Flanagan of Ballina holds the ‘Titanic bell’ which is rung every time a member of the Titanic Swimming Club has to pay a penalty.
Ken ‘Feet’ Flanagan of Ballina holds the ‘Titanic bell’ which is rung every time a member of the Titanic Swimming Club has to pay a penalty. Marc Stapelberg

Titanics tackle the icy

THEY may be named after the most famous maritime tragedy in history, but The Titanics RSL Winter Swimming Club members don't take themselves seriously.

Every winter weekend starting the first Sunday after Easter, the retirees aged between their 80s and their 50s, strip to their togs for races across Ballina's Shaws Bay.

But they admit the bevies and bad jokes in the park afterwards are as big a drawcard as the invigorating exercise.

Northern Rivers winters may be balmy in comparison to down south, but the water temperature can still fall to as low as 13 degrees in the bay.

"It's bloody cold in there sometimes," said The Titanics president Greg Davidson, stating the bleeding obvious.

The secret to surviving the 75m dash across the bay is to keep your head out of the water or wear a cap.

Otherwise you run the risk of suffering brain freeze and developing a sharp headache.

The members take it in turns to supply hot soup to warm up their extremities post-swim.

Ken 'Feet' Flanagan has built a legendary reputation for his cooking, especially his pipi soup.

But a brew involving frozen peas which were included too late in the cooking process is not remembered as fondly.

"Once you spat the 'ball bearings' out it wasn't too bad," Ken said.

One-hundred years to the day since the Titanic sunk after hitting an iceberg, The Titanics killed time by practising sucking their guts in and tweaking each other's nipples while they waited for The Northern Star photographer to set up their group shot.

The club has about 25 members and was founded in 1978 by Cameron Copland.

Cameron's ashes were sprinkled over Shaws Bay following his death a decade ago.

The men are chuffed that their old mate continues to accompany them during their winter dips.

Col 'Hodgo' Hodgkinson explains that the club's name was inspired from some typical black humour from members.

"(The Titanic's passengers) were the first winter swimmers when it sank," he said.

Women were strictly banned from becoming members, not that any have ever asked to join.

But The Titanics are happy to consider new members of the non-female variety.

Applicants should be over 18, a member of the Ballina RSL Club, like a drink or two, including being available for Friday night refreshments and have a sense of humour.

And, oh yeah, they should also be able to swim.



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