Forget ripping open presents on Christmas morning, hundreds of swimmers will be heading for the sea for their festive dip in Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton.
- Budleigh Salterton’s Christmas Day swim starts at 10am, from the bottom of Steamer Steps.
- Exmouth Christmas Day swim 2019 starts at 11am, near the clocktower.
- Sidmouth’s Boxing Day swim, on December 26, starts at 11am. Sign-in from 10am, from under the Sailing Club – UPDATE 26/12/19: The event has been cancelled due to the weather. Read more here.
The hardy lot plunging into the chilly waves of Exmouth’s December sea, are keeping alive a tradition that’s in its 50th year – started by six swimmers in the late 1960s.
When keen sportsman Ken Cunningham, from Exmouth, decided to take a dip on Christmas morning, he invited his friends, Peter Horne, Stan Jordan, Nick Hockings, David Hart and Miss Ireland to join him.
With the swimming pools shut on Christmas Day, Ken told his friends he would swim off the beach opposite the clock tower.
Ken could never imagine his actions would take off and that some 50 years later swimmers would flock to Exmouth from all over the world to take part.
Ken began taking a record of those who took part, starting his log in 1976, asking swimmers to sign a register.
The list of names grew with each year, until the register was abandoned in 1995 when there were too many people to record.
Many names are repeated throughout the years – one regular is Nigel Snowshall, from Exmouth, who joined the throng in 1976, aged five years old.
In 2007, when work commitments prevented Nigel from taking part in the traditional Christmas morning swim, the firefighter headed to the beach after work instead for his annual festive dip.
And Exmouth swim organiser Ken Cunningham has been heard to say: “It wouldn’t be Christmas if I couldn’t go for a swim.”
After the dash and splash, most swimmers head home to warm up.
Long gone are the days when swimmers would cross the road to the Deer Leap, on the seafront, where landlord Frank Twisleden would serve mince pies and punch.
Fancy dress is optional when running into the freezing winter water. Only wetsuits and waterproof clothing are banned.
And leave any competitive urges at home – go in, have a swim, and don’t try to stay in longer than anyone else.
Before Exmouth’s Christmas swim grew in popularity and needed more organisation, Ken was known to head to Budleigh Salterton to join the neighbouring town’s festive dip.
Budleigh’s swim, founded by twice-English Channel swimmer Larry Morris, begins an hour earlier than Exmouth’s – starting at 10am.
- Budleigh Salterton Christmas Day swim starts at 10am from the bottom of Steamer Steps.
- Exmouth Christmas Day Swim starts at 11am sharp, from the beach near the clock tower.
- Sidmouth Boxing Day swim, December 26, starts at 11am. Sign in from 10am under the Sailing Club.
To see photos of last year’s Exmouth Christmas swim, see Exmouth Photo Studio’s Facebook page.
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