Albany’s Southern Salties helping 90yo legally blind June Humphries continue a 45-year ritual

At 90 years old, June Humphries has spent nearly half a century starting her day with a morning dip at Middleton Beach in Albany, and has no plans to stop.

With her togs, towel poncho and swimming cap, she is on the Western Australian beach ready to swim at 6:30am every day except Sunday, whether there be rain, hail or shine.

“I will not miss a day. I just don’t feel the same if I don’t do it,” Mrs Humphries said.

“It really makes you feel good. The rest of the day comes into focus.”

Over the last decade, however, it has become more difficult for June to continue her ritual of 45 years.

“One eye went first, then the other eye had a massive bleed so I haven’t been able to drive,” Mrs Humphries said.

Legally blind, for the past six years she has had to rely on other people to get her to and from the beach, as well as guide her in and out of the water.

“I’m not steady on my feet at the shoreline,” Mrs Humphries said.

“It’s alright once I get out there, but someone always needs to walk me in.

“I couldn’t go in the water [by myself] most of the time without being knocked over.”

Southern Salties helping out
Her local Albany swim group, the Southern Salties, happily assist Mrs Humphries in the mornings.

“I have three friends that bring me down in the morning. Without them I couldn’t even come down, so it’s such a community thing,” she said.

When Mrs Humphries arrives at the beach, all the salties greet her and identify themselves before one takes her hand.

“Because I can’t see, they say to me who they are, which is really good,” she said.

“It’s really funny — some people I recognise by their voice, some people it might be by the way they walk, others might be by their size or something like that.”

Southern Salty Merinda Watt said it was “pretty cool when you get a chance to help June into the water”.

“Some days the waves are huge, but she still goes in. We just kind of shield her and guard her a little bit.”

Once in the water, Mrs Humphries waits for the others to finish their laps so she can be guided back to shore.

“I don’t do laps. Mostly I just bob around and watch all the others,” she said.

An inspiration for salties
Ms Watt says she hopes to still be swimming when she’s 90 years old as well.

“Well I hope I get to 90, and that I’m tough enough to do it [in] winter like she does as well.

“[Mrs Humphries] is absolutely the salt of the earth, literally. She’s such a doer.”

Other Southern Salties described June as having a young spirit and a positive outlook on life and were inspired by her to keep swimming regardless of life challenges.

But Mrs Humphries insists that continuing her tradition is not extraordinary.

“This story is not about me. This story is about this community,” she said.

“The community down here is just amazing. Everyone’s there for me, and for everyone else too.”