I love Christmas and all its traditions, but there’s one tradition I abhor. At 11am on Boxing Day the local surfers and lifeguards of Portreath strip off to their bare essentials, exposing pasty, flabby winter bodies, hoon across the beach and plunge into the frigid waters of the North Atlantic.
This is a tradition that has been going on years, since the surf club was founded in the fifties, and now happens at beaches all over the country.
It’s hideous, and this year was no exception, with the water a reputed two degrees colder than this time last year. First thing in the morning it all looked promising: the sun was shining and there wasn’t a breath of wind, but by eleven o’clock the sky had darkened, a chill southwesterly had whipped up and, as towels were cast aside, the heavens opened.
The one saving grace this year was it was high tide – on previous years the run over the stones to a spring low-tide waterline has brought grown men to tears.
After a group photo, someone yells “Go!” and it’s a sprint into the sea. A few brave nutters last long enough to bodysurf a couple of waves, but for most it’s a quick dip, then a mad dash back up the beach to squeeze like sardines into the shower followed by copious amounts of mulled wine in the clubhouse.
I don’t like the cold at the best of times, so leading up to Christmas the thought of the dip does actually give me sleepless nights. Not partaking however, is unquestionable. It’s just not worth the grief. For all I whinge, though, it’s another of those great traditions that embraces the full spectrum of folk, young and old, bringing a sense of community and shared experience.
I have an overactive imagination, it’s never as bad as I think it’s going to be, but that memory fades and 360 days later the sleepless nights begin again.