A short, sharp shock to the system - all for a good cause

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The Independent Online
Eight hundred people sprinting into (and out of) a freezing North Sea yesterday at Seaburn, Sunderland. Thousands cheered them on, a brass band played and fire-fighters hosed down anyone not wet enough.

Undaunted by the frost, they had converged for the annual dip organised by the Sunderland Lions Club, which is the biggest event of its kind in the country. The bathers, many going in as teams and in fancy dress, raised another pounds 800 for the local lifeboat station through a collection on the beach.

Stuart Kohn, who was master of ceremonies, said: "It may be extremely cold but the warm-hearted people of Wearside keep making this bigger and better every year. Everyone has a great time and although we had survival bags on hand in case anyone went down with hypothermia, not a single one was needed."

A group from St Wilfrid's Church in Moorside went as monks - with lots of warm clothing under their habits. "It still felt very cold," said the Rev Paul Walker, who led the five-strong group. "But I did it last year, wouldn't have missed it for anything this year and we'll be back next time."

Photograph: Raoul Dixon