Plunge into the water and not the chocolates this Christmas!
The orgy of consumption required at this most wonderful time of the year needs a hardcore response. Endless turkey sandwiches and equally endless repeats of Morecambe and Wise don’t cut it when it comes to recovering from the excesses of the holiday season. We’re talking cold water, freezing temperatures and exercise…welcome to the unique world of the festive outdoor swim.
As with any winter outdoor swim, after the initial incoherent noise-making, numbness and questioning of one’s sanity, it offers a tingling sense of being reborn in a world where colours are brighter, shapes are sharper and everything seems just that little bit more magical – appropriately enough for the time of year.
So if you are willing to don a swimming costume (or indeed a Santa wetsuit), here are 9 outdoor swims across the UK to dive into:
Cheltenham Lido’s Christmas Day Swim – an adrenaline shot of festive cheer and a kill-or-cure approach to any lingering Christmas Eve hangover.
Hunstanton Promenade Annual Christmas Day Swim – attracting thousands of participants and spectators from near and far for 50 years. And the more outrageous and inventive your (swimming) costume the better; £25 for the best (fancy) dressed individual, and £100 for the best dressed group!
Saundersfoot New Year’s Day Swim – attracts nearly two thousand people to the beach, many of them in fancy dress. And in the spirit of the season, the swim also raises some significant cash for charitable causes.
Firth of Forth – New Year’s Day ‘Loony Dook’ Swim – a seriously cold undertaking in the Firth of Forth as a “loony dooker” for fundraising fun in a more northern setting. And don’t worry, while the word “dooker” might sound unsavoury, it’s just another word for a sea swimmer.
Weymouth Harbour Christmas Day Swim – an annual tradition raising many thousands of pounds for Lions Club Charities. Earn that Christmas pudding and jump in with about 150 (slightly crazy) valiant swimmers. Or take the more reasoned approach and stay dry harbourside to show your support.
Sutton Park – Christmas Day Swim – the Christmas Day swim at Blackroot pool in Sutton Park offers one of a limited number of freshwater festive swims, with around 60 people in various states of (fancy) dress jumping in.
Sennen Cove – Christmas Day Swim – golden sands and Mediterranean-style seas in summer, a rather different proposition in winter. But this doesn’t deter several hundred keen (or plain bonkers) individuals from heading in for the annual Christmas Day Swim. There’s plenty of Cornish wildlife to keep an eye out for, if the screaming doesn’t scare it off.
Whitby District Lions – Boxing Day Dip – another swim with an emphasis on charitable fundraising alongside the usual japes, bravado and icy waters. There’s even an official fancy-dress competition to take your mind off chattering teeth and numb limbs.
Serpentine Swimming Club – Christmas Day Swim – spectating room only unless you’re a member, but it does have some unique quirks that make it well worth a watch. Participants are serenaded into the water and then proceed to race for the Peter Pan Cup, a reference to JM Barrie’s association with the club; had you won the race between 1903 and 1932, it would have been Barrie himself presenting you with your prize.
Whether it’s north or south, all these swims share a sense of conviviality, exhilaration and a keen sense of humour that is born out of taking on the elements and living to tell the tale (but it’s important to follow the safety advice and use your common sense to ensure the latter). Festive swims are a joyful celebration of life in the middle of winter’s darkness – just like Christmas itself. See you in the water.