WHILE some were nursing hangovers on New Year’s Day, hardy souls in East Wittering dived into 2015 with gusto.
Hundreds of people turned out today (January 1) to support people as they took part in the big dip, throwing themselves into the freezing sea to raise money for a good cause.
The dip raises much-needed funds for the 1st Birdham and Witterings Scout Group and some 79 dippers, many in fancy-dress, braved the biting wind to race into the sea shortly before 1pm.
East Wittering resident Melvyn Vincent did the dip two years ago, and was back to brave the icy waters again this year. “You get a good buzz,” said the 57-year-old.
“Everyone’s really friendly, and it’s not about getting up to your neck, but just going in. It’s a great feeling, and raises money for a good cause. Everyone I know thinks I’m mad.
“I have a motto - do something mad once a year. Well this is it.”
Alfie Forrest, who lives in East Wittering, braved the seas in his black morph suit which he bought especially for the occasion.
The 13-year-old Bishop Luffa School student said he wanted to do it to raise money for a great cause. “I bought my suit online so I could do the dip,” said Alfie. “I’m not really that worried about the cold. I wanted to help raise money for the scout group.”
His mum Patricia was on hand to hold his belongings as Alfie raced into the sea. “Thankfully we live right on the beach so I can get him straight in a warm shower afterwards,” she said.
Ian Betteridge, 50, from Bracklesham Bay threw himself into the event - and the fancy dress criteria - in his Black Swan outfit.
“I’m really excited. There’s great community spirit and it’s also a personal challenge for me,” he said.
Friends Vikki Penny, Angela Cawte and Luis Salazar Donate, all from Chichester, did the dip for the first time. “We thought it would be a fresh start to the new year,” said Angela. “It will certainly blow away the cobwebs!”
East Wittering’s firefighters led the way, going into the water first to make sure all the dippers were safe. St John’s Ambulance crews were also on hand, while Calamity’s Cafe provided teas, coffees and snacks with all funds going to the Scout group. Hawkins & Smith estate agents in East Wittering provided all the signage for the event.
It was a team effort for ‘The Three Musketeers’ - twins Harriet and Jess Broadbridge, 17, and Henry Wiltshire, 16. Henry said: “It’s a bit of fun for a good cause. I’ve done it once before, a couple of years ago.”
And not all the dippers were locals - Charlie Farley, 45, came all the way from London to get involved.
He said: “I wanted to come down to do the dip. It was lovely and refreshing - though freezing - a good way to get rid of the Christmas and New Year’s hangovers.”
No stranger to the icy waters was Graham Buckle, 52, who lives between homes in Chichester and London. “I’m a cold water swimmer,” said Graham. “So I swim most days in the sea. It was choppy, but colder out than in.”
Despite a lack of volunteers leading to the cancellation of the New Year’s Day dip along the coast in Bognor Regis, there were no such problems in East Wittering.
Last year, wind and rain forced the cancellation of the event at the 11th hour as the sea was too dangerous for people to enter.
See next week’s Observer (January 8) for all the pictures from the day.