Ice swimmers take to freezing water in Christmas tradition

Swimmers brave the cold seas in Brighton for the Annual Christmas Day dip.
Swimmers brave the cold seas in Brighton for the Annual Christmas Day dip.
Credit: Jon Santa Cruz/REX

While most people are unwrapping their presents and starting on the sherry, members of Brighton Swimming Club will be preparing to wake up the hard way in the near-freezing waters off the English South Coast.

It’s a tradition dating back to 1860, and the club’s sea swimming coach Fiona Southwell will never quit.

Metro: What’s the scale of the event?

Southwell: Over the last two years it’s gone from a few club members up to 400 people. We get people in mankinis, naked people, babies, Santa suits. It’s not for the faint-hearted and if you’re not acclimatized you have a rude awakening. The city council are threatening to cancel if it can’t be marshaled properly.

What is the technique?

Acclimatization is key. You should be swimming from summer to be ready for winter, and taking regular cold showers so it’s not such a shock to the system. People with asthma and heart conditions suffer a huge shock. But it’s pure adrenaline and keeps you buzzing all day. There are amazing health benefits; it’s a natural painkiller, increases red blood cells and prevents respiratory infections.

Is the atmosphere more competitive or supportive?

There is always an alpha male that wants to be in longer than anyone else, and icebreakers that want to push boundaries, but generally we just support each other. We’re all extreme anyway.


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