Christmas Day morning. I can nearly guarantee that here in the UK, it won’t be crisp, white and even outside, but in a lot of kitchens up and down the country, the air will be turning blue with the language, due to the stress of producing the most important meal of the year. For some people, the lure of the sea is greater than that of the kitchen and will meet in either fancy dress or just their swimming costume on the beach for a dip. This is an event that has become a firm tradition, that is now sadly under threat due to health and safety.
Now as a swimming teacher, I am expected to cover basic water safety with the children that I teach and from this perspective, I would definitely tell them not to enter open water during the winter months, especially as children are not very good at regulating their body temperature unlike adults. However, adults should be allowed to make their own informed decisions and not by health and safety bodies that don’t actually know what they are talking about. So the obvious ones are don’t drink alcohol and don’t over-eat before the dip. Check the weather forecast and the sea conditions, as even experienced outdoor swimmers have encountered problems, like Jane Hardy, member of the Alnwick Sea Swim group who acts as coastguard by checking the tides and sea conditions, as well as one of the administrators for their Facebook page. “We did a new year dip last year and discovered we were in a tidal surge!! Didn't get much swimming done - struggled to stand up. I think kids need to be educated about the shock of cold water. How to spot a rip, stay calm in a rip and get out of one. If you get them early enough in the national curriculum you could save lives. It's lack of knowledge (and possibly alcohol) that causes deaths - jumping into quarries in the hot weather, deciding to swim across rivers etc. You look at Scandinavia and whole communities wild swim in the summer safely because it's a way of life. Ban them and they'll jump in anyway - they're kids. Educate them and they have a chance to make an educated decision.”
The annual Christmas dip brings people together, creates memories and fun. These types of events can also raise money and awareness for a good cause. The White Christmas Dip, which has taken place on Bournemouth beach next to Boscombe Pier since 2008 raises “much needed funds for Macmillan Caring Locally supporting the Macmillan Unit at Christchurch hospital, which is a Specialist Palliative Care Unit for patients in the local community.” It is a minimum donation of £5, but participants are encouraged to approach friends, family and local businesses for sponsorship. Spectators are more than welcome to join in with the festive merriment and to encourage the participants. The White Christmas Dip takes place in controlled conditions and should be whole heartedly supported, likewise with the Brighton Christmas dip, that traditionally goes back 150 years.
Unfortunately, Brighton and Hove council have banned it this year due to the fact that a man got into difficulty earlier this year in the sea and another man, 3 years ago, had to be rescued whilst participating in the Christmas dip. This is a complete overkill. The first incident did not even happen during the event and whilst the second one did, both men were rescued. Accidents happen, life should be about an element of risk and not so cotton wool wrapped as is preferential by local government.
For more information on The White Christmas Dip, please visit: http://www.whitechristmasdip.co.uk