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Ice bath operators told they're not welcome at Coogee Beach

It's the latest wellness trend taking off on social media, but organisers of early morning ice bath sessions at Sydney's Coogee Beach say Randwick Council has suddenly poured cold water on the idea.
Two different operators have been running ice bath and breathwork groups at Coogee Beach since the beginning of the year.
Somatic Ice has been holding weekly group sessions of about 50 people at 6.30am on Saturdays since February, at the southern end of Coogee Beach.
Ice bath operators say they've been told by Randwick Council they're no longer welcome at Coogee Beach.
Ice bath operators say they've been told by Randwick Council they're no longer welcome at Coogee Beach. (Facebook/The Happy Human Project)
Meanwhile, resilience coach Nick White - from the Happy Human Project - has been operating his ice bath groups from the northern end of the beach fortnightly at 8am on Sunday.
However, neither of the groups have been operating this month because of a stalemate with the council.
White said when he started running his ice bath groups in January, Randwick Council were initially supportive.
"The agreement when we started was that the council had relaxed permits post-COVID to get some action happening again, with the understanding that - at some point - that was going to change," White said.
Somatic Ice has been running ice bath sessions since February.
Somatic Ice has been running ice bath sessions since February. (Instagram/Somatic Ice)
In June, the Happy Human Project and Somatic Ice both applied for permits at the council's request.
"They said they were creating a special permit for ice bath groups because at the moment they just have fitness permits which only allow for groups of 10 people," White said.
White said he didn't hear from the council for months, but last month he was suddenly told by a council staff member that his application was likely to be rejected.
"The activity was not supported by council due to complaints and our need to balance the needs of competing beach users," White was told in an email from Randwick Council.
"Given that we are only just getting into warmer weather this competition will increase with it the pressure for space and the accommodation of many more people." 
Ice bath organiser Nick White said he had been forced to cancel his ice bath session scheduled for this weekend.
Ice bath organiser Nick White said he had been forced to cancel his ice bath session scheduled for this weekend. (Facebook/The Happy Human Project)
White said the council had refused to give him any details about the nature of the complaints or how many they had received. 
"This has come as a shock because we've been running for the whole year and there haven't been any incidents that I know of," White said.
"There's been no issues with sharing space. I make the point of not having any signage or speakers. I also chose the north end because it's much quieter," he said.
White said council's rejection of his application for a permit also went against its purported aim to promote inclusivity and community wellbeing.
"The whole reason for setting the event up in the first place is because it's hard to make friends as an adult," White said. 
"It's giving people a space to meet like-minded people, and then do something fun and cool and challenging to build your resilience at the same time."
Somatic Ice founder Saoirse McGrath said she was also shocked by the council's sudden change of heart.
"I was initially told the council loved what we were doing and they wanted us to keep going," McGrath said.
However, McGrath said she had also been told by council her permit application would not be approved.
McGrath said she stopped running her sessions three weeks ago after being tipped off that rangers would be issuing fines if her next Saturday morning session went ahead.
"We're really in the dark about why this has happened," she said.
McGrath said she was told by a council staff member that lifeguards had objected to their presence on the beach.
But McGrath, who is herself a qualified lifeguard, said she did not believe this was the case.
McGrath said she was only aware of one resident who had made any complaints about her group.
"There's one woman that just takes pictures and sends them to council and says she doesn't want us down there," McGrath said.
"We've tried our best to talk to her. We don't do anything that is boisterous, or loud, or abusive. 
"We're in and out in 45 minutes and people go together and get a coffee after.
"It's an awesome group. People have met friends, boyfriends, girlfriends and even gotten jobs. There's incredible stories that have come out of it.
"I got a message the other day from a woman in the group who said it's her highlight of the week and she was really struggling now without it."
Somatic Ice founder Saorise McGrath said she was puzzled about why Randwick Council was opposed to her permit application.
For many Somatic Ice customers, the meet-ups are the highlight of their week. (Somatic Ice)
A spokesperson for Randwick Council said operators of the ice baths had been asked to lodge an application for assessment like all other commercial users. 
"Our beaches are for the enjoyment of the general public and we work to balance all beach users with the ultimate goal of keeping our community safe and happy," the spokesperson said.
However, White said he had been told by council there would be no point completing his permit application by paying a non-refundable fee because it was not likely to be successful.
Lucy Bloom, who is president of the local chamber of commerce, Business Coogee, said the ice bath groups had been a boon for local businesses.
"You've got 50 people gathered and they all walk off the beach and go to a café together, or spread out amongst the local businesses close to the beach," she said.
"On my estimate, that's 1000s of dollars in revenue to those businesses. 
"This seems like a surprise, but council tends to say 'no', and then they figure it out. 
"So I'm hoping they're figuring it out because it's good for business and it's good for the community." 
Both Somatic Ice and the Happy Human Project have started online petitions calling on Randwick Council to allow them to continue their ice bath sessions at Coogee Beach.
Contact reporter Emily McPherson at

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