COLD and wet weather did not deter brave swimmers from plunging into the North Sea to take part in a festive tradition.
The annual Boxing Day Dip saw thousands of hardy swimmers plunge into icy water on beaches across the region.
More than 100 people took part in the event in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, yesterday – helping to raise more than £1,000 for the North Sea Volunteer Lifeguards.
The dip has been organised every year since 1998 and, while some donned their bikinis and swimsuits, others wore fancy dress costume.
It was the first time that friends Gemma Mitchelson, 30, of Tynemouth, Ruth Munro, 42, of Gateshead, and Anna Richardson, 35, of Heaton, Newcastle, have taken part in the fun event.
Gemma, who teaches English as a foreign language, was dressed as a donkey for the occasion.
She said: “I watched the event last year and I thought that this time I would give it a go.
“It’s been good fun but the water was so cold that I couldn’t feel my legs.”
Mother-of-two Ruth, who was dressed as an angel, said: “It was brilliant and I would possibly do it again.
“It is nice to know that by doing the dip we are helping raise money for charity.”
Anna, who also teaches English as a foreign language, added: “I wanted to do the dip because it seemed like a good way to see out the old year and see in the new one.”
Families gathered on the beach to support and encourage the fundraisers as they made their way into the freezing sea.
Some participants wore Santa hats, while others were dressed in elaborate costumes such as superheroes Batman and Wonder Woman.
Those taking part splashed around in the North Sea for between five and 10 minutes.
Seasoned Boxing Day dippers Craig Mulvaney, 36, Erik Coleman, 49, and Shaun Malarkey, 44, have been taking part in the event for six years.
The trio were dressed as women and wore wigs and skimpy swimming costumes as they frolicked in the waves.
Dad-of-three Craig, and IT consultant from Whitley Bay, said: “We have been doing the dip for six years and dress up as women. It was extremely cold but it wakes you up, and it’s a bit of fun.”
Erik, a print manager, of North Shields, was at the event with the support of his wife Tracey, 47, a civil servant.
The dad-of-two said: “It is something that we have done for years and it’s always a laugh. We sometimes do the New Year Dip as well, but we’ll have to wait and see if we do it this year.”
Shaun, a civil servant, from Whitley Bay, added: “It was a little warmer this year and the waves weren’t as bad this time.
“The event can be a thing of dread, but when you get to the beach and get in the sea it’s good fun.”
Meanwhile, 1,000 brave swimmers took part in the 38th annual Boxing Day Dip at Seaburn, near Sunderland, to raise money for good causes.
Newly-engaged couple Phil Harrop, 37, and Kay Thompson, 31, took the plunge dressed as penguins after they made a pact during their proposal.
Phil proposed to Kay on Christmas Eve as they enjoyed a romantic getaway at a log cabin near Driffield, East Yorkshire.
But, as a condition of saying yes, Kay, of Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, had to agree to take part in the Seaburn dip.
Kay, a special needs teacher who also runs her a dance school, said: “We dressed up as penguins because we love dancing and the film Happy Feet. Both me and Phil like extreme things, we’ve been bungee jumping, white water rafting and I’ve even walked on fire, so when he mentioned we had to do the dip, I thought it was a great idea.”