IT IS freezing cold on the beach, never mind the water – but organisers of an annual swim are all set to plunge into the icy sea on New Year’s Day.
Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service (Gafirs) is ready to go for its annual event after last year’s was cancelled due to bad weather.
Every year, for more than 30 years, hundreds of swimmers turn up at Stokes Bay to have a dip in the freezing water to kick off the start of the new year.
With many donning fancy dress costumes, participants brave the cold to raise money for a number of different charities of their choice.
Last year, the event had to be cancelled due to severe wind, rain and flooding.
But Gafirs is looking forward to getting the event under way. this time
Chairman Keith Thomas said: ‘We are really looking forward to the swim.
‘Last year some treacherous weather conditions meant we had to cancel it for the first time in the 30-odd years we have been doing this.
‘So hopefully we get the right conditions for this year’s event.
‘It is just a load of fun for people to get dressed up and raise money.
‘They can come down and have a little paddle in the freezing waters or be a bit braver and go a bit deeper.
‘But we don’t ask people to swim the length of the beach – it’s just for fun.’
In 2013, 301 swimmers took part and more than 2,000 spectators went down to Stokes Bay to show their support.
And the charity event helped 32 different organisations.
Keith added: ‘At this event, we manage to get between £2,000 and £2,500 in donations so it sets us up good for the year.
‘And the other charities seem to do quite well in donations too.
‘Every year we have had more people take part.
‘Around eight years ago, we only had about 60 people taking part so it has steadily grown which is good.
‘The number of spectators has also got bigger so it is getting more popular.’
People can still register for the swim which starts at midday on January 1 by the Gafirs lifeboat station, on Lifeboat Lane, in Stokes Bay.
For more information or to register visit gafirs.org.uk/nydswim.