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Aja celebrates 20 years of Devonport Midwinter Swims

Flagstaff Team

Gearing up for a chilly dip… Aja Lethaby and son Leo at Windsor Reserve Beach, ahead of this year’s midwinter swim.

Twenty years after a young Aja Lethaby helped establish the Devonport Midwinter Swim, she is again preparing to take part with her three-year-old son, Leo.

Lethaby, now 31, took part in her first midwinter swim in 1998, when she was 11 years old.

“It was a big storm and I thought it was the most fun I had ever had,” she says.

“It left such an impression on me and I thought I’d really like to do that again.”

With the help of her parents, Lethaby began organising the Devonport Midwinter Swim, which has become an annual ritual at Windsor Reserve.

She planned and ran the event for around eight years before handing it on. Organisation has since been passed on from family to family.

“It was a really good experience and it almost paved the way for what I’m doing now – marketing and events,” says Lethaby.

She works from her Devonport home as the marketing executive for Chamber Music New Zealand.

Since leaving university, Lethaby has travelled overseas and lived in Wellington for work, but has always taken part in the swim when in Devonport.

“I just love that it’s nothing but an event that brings the community together. The feeling you get afterwards is amazing, you feel ecstatic,” she says.

Toe in the water… The then 12-year-old Aja wore a period costume when she first organised the Devonport Midwinter Swim in 1999

Her son Leo took part for the first time in 2018, and will be jumping back in this year.

“Last year, he was the youngest swimmer. He got a massive shock when he ran into the water, but we have been swimming this year right up until last month so I think he’ll be more prepared this time.”

With a laugh she wonders if she might dress Leo in a similar costume to the period outfit she wore in 1999.

• This year’s Devonport Midwinter Swim, run by Amanda French, is at 11.30am on 23 June, at Windsor Reserve Beach.

This article originally appeared in the June 14 edition of The Devonport Flagstaff. Download PDF.