It’s coming again. Yes, Christmas, New Year, all that sort of stuff. But so is Tenby’s annual Charity Boxing Day Swim.
A series of Tenby Sea Swimming Association committee meetings – we’ve got it down to three – leads up to a three hour explosion of frenetic activity: at 9.45am, you’d think nothing was going to happen and, at 2pm, you’d think nothing had. In what amounts to a blink, a grand spectacle involves thousands of spectators and hundreds (last year 700) of mad swimmers.
Many in fancy dress, they descend to fill up the beach or the spaces with a view on the cliffs around and, just as quickly depart, having said their hellos to family, friends and anyone else brimming over with the spirit of bonhomie this event seems to culture and pollinate.
Behind the scenes, the mighty supporters bend their backs: as well as the committee, there are the Lions Clubbers who offer free soup to the recovering swimmers, whose flanks can be warmed at the bonfire curated this year, for the first time, by the RAF Air Cadets.
On and next to the water are the hawk-eyed Tenby Surflinkers, ensuring everyone who goes in also comes out in the mad rush called “GO”. Also on the water, the ever reliable Pembroke Paddlers, kayakers there to host a race amongst their juniors and to provide more safety cover.
There may be a raft race, you never know until the rafts turn up, normally at the last minute; named after the tragic loss of one of our prominent young men a few years ago, the Daitanic Raft Race nearly always offers a stirring tribute to both Dai and the rafters, battling amongst themselves to win but battling mostly the power of the sea just for their craft to stay afloat. Nearly always because some years no raft turns up.
And lurking amongst the action you’ll find HM Coastguard officers, St John’s Ambulance team and the Tenby RNLI lifeboat crew, all present and attentive unless there’s a ‘shout’ and one or more of them are summoned to attend an incident elsewhere.
And to pick up the costs of running this event, step forward our generous sponsors: Princes Gate Spring Water, Harbour Wealth and FBM Holidays. And let’s not forget the town’s Mayor, who always assists in handing out the medals – one for each swimmer.
Such coordinated collaboration behind the apparent chaos at the seaside, all helping to raise the contributions to worthy causes above the 290k over the event’s 47 year history, all on Boxing Day: brings a tear to my eye. As it has for every one of the last 47 years.
Why don’t you come and join us? Or rather, how could you miss it?
photographs courtesy of Gareth Davies Photography