North East Skinny Dip: Brave bathers throw off clothes and inhibitions to raise over £20,000 for the mental health charity Mind
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The event allows people to throw of both their clothes and inhibitions, “get back to nature” and enjoy the “ultimate freedom”.
Swimmers took the plunge at 7am this morning (September 25) as the sun began to rise over the surprisingly calm waters of the bay.
There was a mystical atmosphere as the dip marked the Autumn Equinox – the official end of summer as the sun migrates into the Southern Hemisphere – with fire eaters lighting up the early morning skies and the sound of drum beats reverberating off the sand dunes and across the bay.
Organiser Jax Higginson, 44, from Whitburn, said: “It was a chilly eight degrees Celsius when we entered the water but it was beautifully calm and there was a fantastic orange glow as the sun began to rise.
"It’s a chance to immerse yourself in nature and say goodbye to the summer and welcome in autumn. I enjoyed the experience with every cell of my body.”
It was a “spectacular sight” as more than 1,000 people ran and danced their way into the surf and the early morning sunrise.
Jax added: “Wild swimming really took off during lockdown as people looked to free their minds from restrictions by getting back to nature.
"Doing it with your clothes off is just one step further.
"It’s about being comfortable with your body and who you are.”
It was a sentiment shared by participant Kizzy Riley, 51, from Darlington, who has taken part in all 10 dips.
Kizzy, who works as a marketing manager, said: “It’s the ultimate freedom. There has been people here today of all ages, shapes and sizes and at that moment everyone is exactly the same.
"There was a fantastic atmosphere with people hugging and dancing. It was brilliant to see after the horrendous experience of Covid lockdown and I think this is one of the reasons there were more people than ever before.
"It was a wonderful experience.”
While the vast majority of dippers were from the North East, Beccy Andrews, 25, travelled up from Cambridge after finding out about the dip on social media.
Beccy, who works in her corner shop, said: “I enjoyed it and it was a really fun atmosphere, although I’ve never seen so many people naked. The water was really cold but it was all for a great cause.”
Participants were able to “pledge” donations they could afford with all the proceeds going to Tyneside and Northumberland Mind to improve local mental health services.
As well as being a bumper year for dippers it was a record-breaking year for fundraising.
Jax, who works as an artist, said: “We’ve still got money coming in but we’ve already raised over £20,000 which means we’ve smashed the £100,000 mark for money raised since I started the event 10 years ago.
"Mind is a charity which is close to my heart as I’ve had my own struggles with mental health. This is why getting back to nature is important as it makes everything feel better.”