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Hundreds strip off for Britain's biggest skinny dip in freezing North Sea

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The North East Skinny Dip celebrates the first official day of autumn, also know as the autumn equinox, as well as raising money for charity Hundreds of people stripped naked and dived into the freezing North Sea for what's thought to be Britain's biggest skinny dip this morning. The North East Skinny Dip celebrates the first official day of autumn, also know as the autumn equinox, as well as raising money for charity . This year the event welcomed the most participants ever in its five-year history as more than 400 people gathered at Druridge Bay, in Northumberland, at 5.30am. Organiser Jax Higginson, from Sunderland, who came up with the idea after attending a similar event in Wales, told Chronicle Live : “We always have a positive response. “People do it one year then come back again and again. We’ve grown every year so far - people come back with a friend.” Jax added the idea behind doing it at dawn is to run towards a rising sun “celebrating the summer and welcoming the winter”. Ellen Headingly, 45, did the dip last year after her friends persuaded her and came back again to experience it again. “I didn’t want to do it last year, it isn’t something I ever thought I would enjoy at all,” she said. “But I managed to do it in 2015 and absolutely loved it, it was very peaceful and liberating. “It’s quite a strong experience and I wanted to come back and do it again.” She added that today's rainy weather hadn’t spoilt the experience for her, either. It was quite clear and sunny last year - we could see the sun rising quite clearly and that hasn’t happened this year,” she said. “It was a different atmosphere last year too. The sea was far, far calmer and it was a lot more peaceful and quiet. Because of the clear skies it was far chillier last year.” Each participant registers and pays a fee of £12 before the event, which gets donated to charity. Jax estimates about 400 people signed up to the dip, meaning nearly £5,000 has been raised. Last year, 350 people completed the challenge and before that around 180. The event has raised more than £12,000 for mental health charity MIND since it began in 2012. The world's biggest skinny dip was held in Perth, Australia, in March 2015 when 786 people stripped down at South Beach to celebrate positive body image. I’ve pulled plenty of all-nighters in my time, but never have I gone straight from the club, picked up my towel and headed up to rural Northumberland to run naked into the sea to celebrate the solstice. When I heard about the North East Skinny Dip I decided I really wanted to volunteer to do it because it’s all my worst nightmares rolled into one - and I like a challenge. So that’s how I found myself standing on a beach with 400 other people, ready to strip off and run into the freezing sea. And typically I managed to coordinate my first ever proper night out in Newcastle for the night before, meaning I was tired, hungover and terrified all at the same time. From the meander down the path towards the bay to awkwardly standing around waiting for instructions to strip off, the event cultivates a strong sense of community spirit. None of my friends or family wanted to support me during this journey of discovery, but everyone else was in pairs or groups having a great time together. I was quickly adopted by a group of lovely women who pepped talked me through my nerves. As dawn broke, I felt an impending sense of dread. Would I be brave enough? Why was I wearing skinny jeans, the least easy thing to remove elegantly? A countdown began and everyone stripped off. I panicked for a second but realised it was my chance to shine and went for it. It wasn’t too scary running towards the sea but I then faced the purgatory of actually swimming in the very cold water or standing in public without clothes on, like a bad dream. I shouldn’t have worried, everyone was having a great time not really bothered about anyone else, more enjoying the beautiful Northumbria scenery, but still. I got on with it, carrying my phone and keys because I wasn’t foraying into the water without keeping those essentials safe and I could hear my mum’s wisdom about valuables ringing in my head. I managed a bit of a swim, got out and started to walk back towards my bag, which I couldn’t see and began to panic because everything is worse when you are cold and have no clothes on.
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