DESPITE THE goosebump inducing temperatures in the depths of mid-winter, certain Irish people for some unknown reason have the irrepressible urge to strip off to their togs and take a dip in the sea.
Right around the Wexford coastline, over the Christmas holidays, you'll see hoardes of mainly snow white flesh hurtling headlong into the icy waves, watched on by hundreds of bemused hat, coat, and scarf clad spectators, hands buried firmly in their pockets.
The screams soon follow from the sea, and the frozen swarm dashes out of the sea even faster than it went in.
Some do it for a good cause, others do it to give the senses a jolt, while most go along for the social occasion. Experienced winter swimmers will tell you that it's not too bad once you're in.
'You see people covered in Vaseline, but that doesn't work,' said Bert Fortune, one of the organisers of the Christmas Day Swim in Courtown which has been running for almost forty years. 'Don't take hot drinks beforehand either. That's crazy.'
'Don't go down to the water's edge all wrapped up in a dressing gown, and then take it off at the last minute either,' he advised. 'It's better to get cold first, by standing around the beach, and make sure you're cold before you get in. You do feel good after it. It's real refreshment, and when you warm up, you feel good.'
Soft shoes such as runners are also always recommended, as feet can get cut on stones, and they will be so numb, you mightn't realise it.
Those that take part, love it, and those that prefer to stand and watch, love it even more, but whatever the reason for the swim, the organisers are keen to remind everyone that their donations are most welcome.