PUBLISHED: 15:08 18 December 2013 | UPDATED: 15:09 18 December 2013
Archant Norfolk 2012
While most of us are sitting on the sofa, recovering from the over-indulgences of Christmas, hundreds of hardy souls around our coastline are braving the winter weather and preparing to take a plunge in the freezing North Sea.
Raising thousands of pounds for charity, the swims are a real community event and are as much a part of festive traditions as mince pies and turkey for many.
The Cromer swim on Boxing Day is one of the most popular and biggest in the region – last year more than 300 swimmers braved the conditions and ran into the sea, with huge crowds cheering them on from the promenade. The event, organised by the North Norfolk Beach Runners, started in 1985 when some members decided to do it as a bit of a dare and it has gone from strength to strength.
Clive Hedges, one of the organisers, has been taking part for 12 years: “Actually I really look forward to it, it is just so exhilarating, plus I get good bragging rights for the rest of Christmas. The coldest one was a couple of years ago when there was actually snow and ice on the ground. That was pretty chilly! Ours is a double dip swim. The siren goes and you run in, then you run out, then it goes again and you all run back in again. The unwritten rule is that you have to get your hair wet, whether that is dunking under or splashing yourself.”
There is a beach run first if people want to join in, followed by the swim. People are encouraged to wear fancy dress but, laughs Rob, it shouldn’t be used to hide a wet suit.
“Wet suits are not really in the spirit of things, but I have seen them hidden under funny costumes. We get a lot of Santas, and last year a couple of people wore ‘mankinis’ - I think they regretted that choice when they got out. I always do the run first, so me and the other members of the team tend to go straight in wearing our running shorts and vests.”
The crew from Cromer Lifeboat and the coastguards are on hand to make sure everyone stays safe and they always position someone in the sea close to the swimmers.
“My advice would always be to wear shoes because the stones are difficult and can be really sharp and slippery, so a pair of old trainers will do the job. And my other top tip is to bring an old dressing gown to put on as soon as you get out of the sea because your hands are sometimes so cold that trying to get dressed is a nightmare. The dressing gown will help you warm up quickly, which is really important as sometimes the air temperature in contrast to the sea seems warmer than it is and that is when the cold can set in.”
The Cromer swim is organised by the North Norfolk Beach Runners. The run is at 10am and the swim starts at 11am sharp; www.nnbr.co.uk.
Other swims around the coast include:
Hunstanton – Christmas Day, register at the Oasis Leisure Centre at 10.30am, swim starts at 11am. Run by the Hunstanton and District Round Table, this swim has been going for 50 years. There will be hot soup for the swimmers; www.hunstantonroundtable.com/xmas-swim.
Gorleston – New Year’s Day, 10.30am. Register in advance or on the day under the bandstand at Gorleston from 9.30am, £5. Proceeds to St Elizabeth Hospice in Suffolk which cares for and supports people living with a progressive illness from its bases in Gorleston, Lowestoft, Beccles and Ditchingham; www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk/events, 01473 727776.
Mundesley – Boxing Day, 11am. Turn up on the day. The swim has been going for more than 30 years and raises funds for the lifeboat station in the village as well as other local causes. There are prizes for the best fancy dress.
Southwold – Christmas Day, 10.30am to 12pm, Gun Hill Beach; www.southwoldrotary.co.uk.