Words of wisdom on how to brave the cold ahead of the North East's biggest skinny dip
The countdown is on to this year’s North East Skinny Dip.
Whether you’ve already signed up or are wondering if it’s for you, here’s what you need to know about this year’s celebration thanks to organiser Jax Higginson, from Whitburn.
Where, when and why?
This year’s event will be on Sunday, September 22, with the sun expected to rise at 6.52am, with people expected to arrive from 5am.
The beach next to Druridge Bay Country Park will host the gathering, with plenty of parking available.
The event is now in its eighth year and is held to mark the autumn equinox, one of two days in the year where day and night are roughly equal and signifies when summer comes to an end.
Each year, in growing numbers, hundreds of people make a pledge to support mental health charity Mind – £50,000 has been raised since 2012 – with this year’s funds to be gifted to Tyneside and Northumberland Mind for the first time, having previously gone into its national pot.
Jax said: “It’s people getting together and before hand there’s a lot of chatter, then just before the sun’s due to arrive we get everyone together, my sister does a warm up, and then on the command, we strip off and run in.
“Some people get straight out, others stay on the beach for two-and-a-half hours.”
They can expect the water temperature to be 11°C.
Making a festival of it
Camping is available the night before, with caravans and campervans welcome in the car park.
People who want to make the most of the event or would prefer to be there nice and early are encouraged to stay – see below for further details about how to get there.
Jax said: “It’s part of a organic event, so we want people to bring to it what they want to take from it.
“Saturday is very much about music, being together and also encourage people to bring along their instruments and their voices and get on their feet to dance.”
On the morning itself, The Fire Girls will light up the dawn with a performance.
A sand seat, similar to an amphitheatre, will be created on the beach for people to gather and enjoy a campfire.
Bare with me: Is everyone going to be staring?
The event is not for spectators and everyone is in it together.
Organisers know people will want to record their achievement with a photo, but have asked people to be mindful of other people’s privacy and moving footage is discouraged.
The Press Association has covered the event in the past, with shots taken from a distance.
All those lending their support to the event, whether its serving food or drinks or on hand to keep people safe, tend to keep back from the dip itself and respect people’s space.
Anyone who would like a memento of their experience will be able to pick up something from the merchandise stall, including bumper stickers and wrist bands.
Afterwards, Jax recommends people put on plenty of clothing to recover from the chill.
“The water will be cold, so we ask people bring along lots of clothes, more than they think they will be need,” she said.
“The water will be 11°C or 12°C, so it will be really fresh and although the air temperature is going to be up, the water will be cold.”
Any words of wisdom for newcomers?
People who have taken part in the event were asked via the event’s Facebook page – which has a closed group for discussions and to make plans – what came into their minds or stuck with them after they took part.
Freedom, excitement, achievement, laughter, support, friendship, adrenaline, liberation, experience, refreshing, a great atmosphere, respect and joyful were among the words used by some.
Others said: “Nothing better than seeing 600 bottoms all wobbling their way joyously towards the sea. So life-affirming,” while another added: “Watching the sun break the horizon is so beautiful.”
Jax added: “I think often, people want to do it, but then think ‘I don’t think I can.’
“I’d say get involved, make the pledge, show up and they will trust themselves to make the right decision in the moment.
“It’s not really about the skinny dip, it’s about experiencing yourself, connecting with yourself and trusting yourself.”
Among those who have already signed up is the Rev Kate Bottley, who is known through her appearances on Chanel 4’s Googlebox and BBC Radio 2, who has put out a rallying call for people to join in.
Is it safe and what can expect from the set up?
Organisers have public liability insurance in place and will be running a welcome table, where people can seek out information and “ask any questions to help dispel their fears,” while Amble’s Coastguard Team will be on hand once again to ensure help is at hand.
This year, the RNLI will be out at sea with an inshore lifeboat for the first time.
There will be portable toilets for people to use and the washrooms at the country park will also be open for use.
This year, a listening service will be available for a couple of hours during the evening before.
On the morning itself, Medhead will be serving up food, taking on the task after the Magic Hat Cafe was unable the event, with a donation to be made to the community food project and Mind.
North Shore Coffee will have the kettle on so people can order a hot drink.
How do you get there?
There are limited ways of reaching the site by public transport on Saturday evening and none on Sunday morning, with people urged to car share.
The beach is off the A1068 near Hadston in Northumberland, with the address given by organisers as Red Row, Morpeth, NE61 5BX.