On Christmas Eve everyone is brave, “yes, of course we’ll be swimming tomorrow”. It sounds so easy when you’re standing in The Old Success or The Star on your third or fourth Tribute.
Then you wake in the night to the sound of lashing rain driven on high winds and your spirits are dampened a little.
At 9.00am when I took the dog out I realised that while the wind was still blowing, it was warm, and drier than it looked.
At 10.30am driving past the airport with the mist rolling in on the still strong winds I wasn’t feeling full of enthusiasm for a dip in the sea, but then as we dropped into the cove, where the road heaved with people, and the predictable parking chaos took over, I knew I’d be going in.
There were even more people than last year.
Time was running short and we had to leave the car in the harbour car park. That was handy because the stomp across the front to the beach served to warm me up, layered as I was in preparation for need of heat later.
I joined the melee as the compere gave the three minute countdown.
Quickly I stripped off to join the several hundred other near naked deranged folk on the beach where the tide was way out, giving us plenty of space to spread.
By lucky chance I found myself lining up alongside New Forge guests Michelle and Andy, and I suspect Jane and her family who are at Myn Tea for Christmas were around somewhere too.
As the 10 second countdown started and the excitement raised to another level all the dogs joined in with their own chorus – Polly out barking her neighbours in her usual unsubtle style.
And then we were off – people running at top speed down the long beach.
I was keen to stay in for a proper swim so it was more of a stroll for me, breathing deeply – the secret (or one of them) to an easy and relatively comfortable entry.
The screams and gasps, the howls of laughter, joy and shock!
Within a minute at least half of the four hundred or so dippers were already heading back up the beach.
But the waves were building, and those of us who stayed in had the best fun, body surfing, swimming a few strokes, trying to work out whether it was warmer in, or out, of the water.
After about ten minutes our feet were truly numb, and only about fifteen people were left in.
It was time to surf a couple more waves and head back up the beach for the hardest bit – getting dressed with cold, numb and wet extremities. But the discomfort hardly matters when everyone around is sharing their pain and excitement.
I guess there were over a thousand people on the beach, four hundred or so in the sea.
It leaves you feeling so alive.
Back at Archavon the fire is roaring, everyone else is overheating, while I’m gradually getting back up to temperature.
Best get my presents wrapped while it’s still light.
Have great Christmases everyone.
Love from the far west.