Centre of Gravity


old building on St Clair esplanade, Dunedin

The word hydro means a hotel or clinic originally providing hydropathic treatment. Hydrotherapy, formerly called hydropathy and also called water cure, is a part of alternative medicine, in particular of naturopathy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, that involves the use of water for pain relief and treatment.

Research on my part (admittedly scant) failed to come up with any information on whether the building above has ever been used for hydrotherapy.


St Clair Surf Club

Maybe a dip in the ocean here at St Clair is all the therapy that is needed. Or a surf (with a wetsuit as protection against the chill).

breaking wave.JPG

I would certainly class a visit to my local, the St Clair – St Kilda stretch of beach, as therapeutic – no dip required; although many times I am tempted to brave the chill like a friend of mine used to.

Marlene died many years ago now, but in the later years of her life, would regularly swim here. I watched her swimming once and can still picture her in an earth-brown swimsuit, charging (albeit tentatively) towards the bullish breakers as they approached. Her husband in faithful-labrador stance, standing farther back, watchful and ready to assist if needed.

This friend was a poet. Below is a portion of a poem of her’s called, ‘In Envy Of A Surf Boarder’.

… he watches

as she edges outward again


towards the walling waves


and ‘tottery’ he says

‘you can’t find your centre of gravity’ he says

and certainly

without his hands she loses her balance

more often

and is tumbled

inwards and downwards

more often

and because she is alone

in more fear …

Marlene Carter

War plaque.JPG

I came across this mysterious, small plaque on a rock at the bottom of a tree outside the St Clair Surf Club. It appears to be dedicated to three surfing brothers / cousins? who were killed in the Second World War. Sadly I couldn’t find any information about these men. The final sentence I find rather chilling.

swings.JPGstill and silent swings on a rainy day 

In contrast, just beyond this plaque, is a brightly painted children’s playground inviting pleasure and freedom from cares. Much like a therapeutic dip in the ocean.

Which reminds me of the mid-winter polar dip challenge held about this time every year. Will this year mark my third time? If I do take up the challenge, I shall do it in memory of Marlene and the three Wrens, and all their varying degrees of bravery and centres of gravity.


Writer from Dunedin, New Zealand.

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