The “Blessing of the Waters” performed each year at the Bogey Hole by members of Hamilton’s Greek Orthodox church invokes the safe return of those at sea.
For one proud mother Sunday’s event symbolised the endurance of her parent’s culture, brought to Australia from overseas, and her son’s love of the surf.
“It’s important to him now but at a later point in time he will recognise it’s significance,” Karen Gilbertson said.
The already long-established tradition in Newcastle involves a priest throwing a crucifix into the Bogey Hole. The first person to retrieve the cross is believed to receive good luck for forty days.
With waves threatening to swallow the pool’s balustrade, Father Nicholas Scordilis said he’d “never before” seen such rough conditions for the feast day ritual.
Only five swimmers braved the swell.
Frank Sourris, 59, of Hamilton South, talked tactics from the sidelines.
“It’s a tradition going back to the fishing trawlers in Greece,” Mr Sourris said.
“The priest throws the cross in the sea and whoever gets it first gets to put it on their trawler. Their boat gets better luck for the year.
“[Today] it’s survival of the fittest. They won’t be able to use their eyes because of the murky conditions. They’ll have to use their hands... like an octopus.”
A strong oncoming wind forced Fr Scordilis to consider his strategy.
There was a communal intake of breath when the golden cross missed the pool.
“I used all my strength and it hit the rock and then finally it fell into the water, which was good,” Fr Scordilis said.
The first to retrieve the crucifix, Merewether’s 18-year-old Jeordie Gilbertson, said he noticed the object bounce onto a ledge just beneath the water’s surface.
“It was on a rock and I saw it, because I thought it was under the water,” he said.
“I’m a surfer so it was really not too bad.”
Having recently finished high school, Mr Gilbertson said he hoped the extra luck would help him “win the lotto or something”.
It was his second year participating in the event.
“Dad’s pretty happy. Mum’s probably the one who is more stoked because she’s been trying to make me do it for years.”
Ms Gilbertson said the fact her son had the opportunity to participate in the tradition was meaningful.
“His father is Australian and I am Greek, so it’s important he gets to experience the culture, and seize the experience of those rituals as he grows up,” she said.
The ceremony is partly held to mark the Feast of Theophany, which symbolises the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.
Participants in the blessing pray for prosperity and the safe return of those at sea.
After wishing his congregants a “happy and prosperous” year, Fr Scordilis urged them to make a quick departure.
“I have some information from above that a very heavy rain is coming,” he said.