Ocean Wader Jo Halley – Surf Coast Shire Local Legend

Published on 24 November 2022

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Torquay’s Wednesday Ocean Waders are so grateful that Jo Halley finally took the plunge.

In days past their group founder was one of those people who could barely dip more than a toe in Cosy Corner waves even at the height of blistering summer.

Now after a growth journey in cold water therapy she couldn’t be happier standing shoulder-deep in the frigid water in the middle of winter with her mates, watching another Surf Coast morning unfurl.

“When you’re down there and the sun’s coming up and you’re watching it come up over the ocean and there’s that beautiful morning light, it’s just the most magical way to start the day,” Jo says.

“We stay in the water for about 20 minutes, everyone’s laughing and chatting, and then some days we go for a coffee together.”

That’s the Ocean Wader way.

Jo started the Torquay group with a call-out for interested participants on a community Facebook page, and modest expectations.

A handful of people turned up on a dark and freezing winter’s morning for a dip which became a weekly ritual.

Now dozens turn out daily experiencing and relishing wader wellbeing, and Jo is being recognised as Surf Coast Shire’s latest Local Legend.

The award recognises her passion, inspiration and leadership in helping people from all walks to thrive through health benefits and social connections.

“Several of us from the Wednesday Ocean Waders wanted to nominate our founder Jo because of the positive influence the group has had on us in so many ways – mental and physical health, active living, friendship, support, building confidence, social and charity fund-raising events,” her nominators said.

“Jo doesn’t realise how positive her influence has been and how the group has been the salvation for many.

“We now swim every day and although we have formed a strong bond we still reach out and embrace new members of all ages and all walks of life.

“For all of us, Jo Halley is a Local Legend.”

Jo says the honour is not about her, but all about community.

“I’ve always loved bringing people together. I just love having people together supporting each other with laughter and kindness,” she says.

“Those things make me feel full I suppose. I want to see other people connecting with their community, that’s important to me.”

And if the connections come with health and wellbeing benefits, then all the better.

After having turned 50 Jo resolved to challenge herself and her deep aversion to cold by conquering a cold water/ice therapy course with son Jesse.

“I felt amazing after I got in the ice and I thought I really want to continue doing this, but I knew if I tried to go down to the water on my own it wasn’t going to happen,” she says.

Having allies helped, and after their first ocean wade she said they felt ‘like warriors’.

“Then it just kept growing and growing,” she says.

People from all walks started coming along, for the wellbeing benefits and the companionship.

“Just in normal life most of us would never have met each other and become friends, so there’s this amazing connection. Everyone is so kind and I’ve never been part of a group that is so caring,” she says.

The group’s only rules are that people have to be kind, and have a sense of humour.

As an ocean wader Jo has personally measured boosts to her health and wellbeing, immune system and resilience.

“And I think nearly every single person in the group has come up to me at some time and said thank you for what you’ve given us,” she says.

“And I suppose that makes me feel like it’s special.”

People can learn more about Wednesday Ocean Waders via the group’s Facebook page.

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