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Yes, you read that right, in Cornwall every year on Christmas day, boxing day and new years day, people voluntarily run into the Cornish sea in the heart of winter to raise money for charity and freeze their baubles off.

These festive swimming events are organised across the Duchy and have been a tradition in some villages for over 50 years.

Winter swimming isn’t for the faint-hearted, so prepare yourself for the adrenaline rush and bring all your family and friends because your festive icy dip in the Cornish waters will be an entertaining story worth telling, and a guaranteed holiday highlight.

We’ve listed 20 festive sea swim events in Cornwall that are each happening in different Cornish villages, towns and coves on either Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Years Day. So, pick a date and join some brave souls for a chilly dip.

Two girls playing in Cornish waves on Christmas

Christmas Day Swims in Cornwall

Crooklets Beach, Bude

The Bude Surf Life Saving Club
10:30 am – Register
10:45 am – Warm Up
11 am – Sea Swim

Imagine over 500 people in the Atlantic Ocean with strictly no wetsuits allowed, out for a Christmas Day swim. This incredible community event raises money for the Bude SLSC who, on the day, also keep everyone safe in the water. Afterwards, the sea swimmers are given mulled wine, hot chocolate, mince pies, sausage rolls and hot shower. To raise funds for resources needed to train the volunteer lifeguards then attend this brilliant event. Registration forms are available here and more information about donating or sponsorship please see the Bude SLSC website.

Gwithian Beach, Hayle

7:00am – 11:45am
Wetsuits Allowed

WIth a beautiful and long beach such as Gwithian, hundreds of people stick on their Santa hats and swimsuits and plunge into the Cornish waters on Christmas Day. With over a 4-hour window to brave the waves, you and your friends should be ready for a big Christmas dinner by the time you are done.

Sennen Cove, Sennen Beach

10:30 – Advised arrival
11 am – Running start
No wetsuits allowed, fancy dress encouraged

If you are looking for the most westerly point in Cornwall to swim in on Christmas day then head to Sennen and get ready to run into the sea with hundreds of other enthusiasts when the buzzer goes off at 11 am. As usual, the rules are only swimsuits and fancy dress, but if you prefer to stay in your woollies then go and join the spectators and watch a 50-year-old tradition carry take place.

Trevaunance Cove, St Agnes

11 am – Start
Wetsuits, strictly forbidden

It all started with a dare over 20 years ago when a Pub landlady offered a free pint to 5 lads if they ran into the sea in just their boxing shorts. Seeing as Cornish would do anything for a pint, a north coast Christmas tradition was born and every year a few hundred take the plunge at 11 am on Christmas day. Driftwood Spars Inn welcome swimmers afterwards with plenty of hot mulled cider to warm up.

Hayle Bay, New Polzeath

11 am – Start
Wetsuits, strictly forbidden

Another big event with over 400 people stripping off their winter layers to charge into the icy waters on Christmas Day. With absolutely no wetsuits allowed, get down to Polzeath and have an adrenaline filled swim with your friends and family in the Cornish sea.

Watergate Bay, Newquay

Gathering in front of the Extreme Academy Surf School (it’s a massive beach) head into the Atlantic Waters on Christmas day for an invigorating sea swim. To warm up, afterwards the Beach Hut is open and serving their famous Xtreme hot chocolates for all the brave souls.

Cadgwith Cove, Lizard Peninsula

Midday – Start

On Christmas day, if a smaller sea swim gathering takes your fancy then head down to one of the most beautiful coves in Cornwall and get ready to dip your toes in at midday. You can also watch the swim at Cadgwith Inn who are serving snacks and drink from 11:30 – 14:00.

Coverack, St Keverne Parish

St.Keverne and Coverack branch of Cancer Research UK
No Wetsuits Allowed, Christmas wear encouraged

For another Christmas day sea swimming tradition that started off with a dare, head to the pretty fishing village of Coverack. It is said a local doctor made a bet with a friend that he would swim across the harbour and since then, local and visitors dress in their swimming costumes and raise money for Cancer Research. Strictly no wetsuits are allowed at this charity event, so make sure you get all the sponsorship you can for your chilly Christmas Coverack swim. After the swim, everyone is invited back to the Fisherman’s Rest at 12:30 pm for a chat and some warmth.

Porthtowan Beach, Porthtowan

11 am

Another seaside village on the north coast where people gather in their cosies to run into the sea on Christmas day. Everyone is welcome to join in or to speculate and free mulled rattler is being served at the Victory Inn from 12 pm for those victorious swimmers.

New Years Swim in Cornwall

Boxing Day Swims in Cornwall

Charlestown Beach, St Austell Bay

11:30 am Start

Organised by the Charleston Rowing Club for a nominated local charity

Since 1991, this event has raised and donated a grand total of £24,000 to local charities including the RNLI, Cornwall Hospice Care, Churchtown Outdoor Activity for the disabled and lots more. So brave those ice December waters and wake yourself up from the Christmas food coma in the name of charity.

Perranporth Beach, Newquay

10:30 am Meet
10:45 am Start

The Perranporth Surf Life Saving Club stress no wetsuits allowed for this Cornish boxing day dip. Join others in the cold Atlantic waters and warm up with some organised refreshments for a small donation.

Poldhu Beach, Lizard Peninsula

10.30am – Warm Up
11 am – Start

People are advised to park at Poldu meet near the beach entrance at 10:30 AM. Every year Ross and Natalie Hocking who run the Poldhu Beach Cafe organise a Boxing Day swim for charity. The Cafe will be open on Boxing Day from 10-2 for hot drinks, mulled wine, mince pies and a reduced hot food menu. So, if you have some to watch people freeze their baubles off or are entertaining it yourself, all donations collected go towards the Cafe’s chosen charity.

Porthminster Beach, St Ives

12 pm Start
Wetsuits allowed
£1 donation to charity

Brave Boxing day swimmers flock to this well-loved beach half-naked, in fancy dress and wearing wetsuits in this popular tradition in St Ives. For a £1 donation to charity, you, your friends and family and your dog can go for a dip in the chilly waves. For supporters and cheerers, Porthminster Cafe will be serving festive hot chocolates and bacon butties to keep everyone warm.

Families huddles together on Cornish beach on Boxing Day
New Years Day Swims in Cornwall

Gyllygnvase Beach, Falmouth

12 pm Start

Why not start your New Year in Cornwall with a refreshing dip at the famous Gylly Beach in Falmouth. Join locals and visitors of all ages for this annual event and kick-start your metabolism in the chilly Cornish waters. Be there at noon in your swimsuit or wetsuits.

Harbour Beach, Newquay

1.30pm Start
Donations appreciated and go to CLIC Sargent

A new years swim in Newquay will be sure to clear a few foggy heads in the winter waters. Arriving early is advised by the organisers as the quayside is usually crowded with spectators eager to watch the brave swimmers run into the sea. CLIC supports young people with cancer.

Looe Beach, Looe

10 am Registration
11 am Start

Labelled ‘Famous Looe New Years Day Dip’, last year about 250 people signed up for the 6th annual dip and raised over £1000 for Looe Lifeboat station. Join them all this year in fancy dress and run into the New Year’s sea with the Looe’s own RNLI volunteer crew.

Gorran Haven Beach, Gorran Haven

11 am

This new years dip is an annual date in Gorran’s village diary. Say hello to 2019 with a refreshing sea swim and join the rest of the village celebrating the year to come

A few Winter Outdoor Swimming Safety Tips

A few of these events are supervised by the RNLI but for those that aren’t its vital that everyone is safe and takes care of one another in the water. Here are some tips so that you and your fellow festive swimmers are prepared.

  • Warm Clothes – Stock up on jumpers, joggers and coats.
  • Plenty of large towels and robes – make sure you get fully dry.
  • Fill a thermos with a hot drink of choice – make sure there is enough to go round.
  • Stock up on something sugary – replenish your energy.
  • Don’t expect to be in the water for a long period of time. It is much more of a token dip, especially if you are without a wetsuit. The water and air temperatures are so cold, so please do take care.
  • Check with the organiser before you go – most of them will be posting updates on Facebook. Rain won’t postpone the swims, but high seas might.
  • Check the weather, tides and currents before getting in, often there are no lifeguards on the beaches at this time of year, so be extra careful.
  • Go with someone else, or tell someone else where you plan to swim and check in before and after.
  • Exercise before and after your swim! Keep moving and your blood pumping.
  • Don’t let children stay in too long, and make sure you are confident that conditions are safe.

Wherever you decide to go for your festive swim or 2-second dip, there is plenty of choices here in Cornwall. The closest swim for Carbis Bay Holiday visitors is St Ives, Porthminster beach on Boxing day.