This was my first Strip and Dip for charity. The high profile women’s race into the cold Irish Sea in Wicklow is now in its seventh year and has raised more than €700,000 for the children’s charity, Aoibheanne’s Pink Tie, over the years.
Last year the women created a Guinness World Record by having the most naked women taking part in a swim. There were more than 2500 women and they had to stay in the water for five minutes to seal the deal. It might have worked last year during our summer heat wave, I’m not so sure the women would have lasted five minutes this year — it was so cold.
The gathering is very festive. Women accessorise and body art is everywhere. It is the most colourful gathering one could imagine. The women gather at the top of the beach, waiting as the buses arrive from a nearby hotel, and picnics are laid and prosecco is popped. There is one male, Wayne, allowed who mans (pun intended) the beach head. He is truly blessed among women. There are also many volunteers who organise the migration of women down onto the beach and ultimately into the water.
This year a number of buses were delayed and so we waited an hour, naked, on the beach. The sun was mostly out and we were mostly warm. I do remember at one point the sun disappeared behind a cloud and at the same time, a cool breeze crossed the beach. The inward sucking of air was loudly heard as we all shivered together.
There were three things I learnt about my experience — none of which I had thought of in advance.
The first was our lady gardens. While I had expected every shape and size of woman (from 18 years up) I had not considered every shape and style of lady garden. There was, as another dipper said to me afterwards, everything from roadkill to freshly plucked turkey. I had thought porn had done more for the eradication of pubic hair than 2000 years of evolution. Not so, or at least not so for this audience as the styles were not categorised by generation. At least not in my observation which was polite by default, tending to keep to eye level mostly unless the subjects were at a distance and not likely to notice my attention.
The second was the absence of phones except as cameras. Phones were banned on the actual beach but up on the grassy knoll, the women…