No one can say that John Clifford is mad. When the certificates of lunacy are being handed out at Surf Bay in the Falklands on Saturday 23 June, John will not be receiving one.
As a St Helenian, he likes his sea warm. He knows that no one in their right mind would jump into the freezing waters of the Falklands in June, but as organiser of the annual Midwinter Swim he is happy to encourage people to do so.
And they do, in large numbers. “It does attract a fair attendance, both military and civilian,” says John. “Last year about 150 people took part, with probably twice that looking on.
“The description ‘swim’ is probably inaccurate: it is better described as a dip. No distance is required, just wet head to toe. More than that frankly would be dangerous: the water is about 4-5 Celsius, and just off the beach is a thick kelp bank.
“Last year one or two did go surfing for a short while.
“We do get a few fancy dressers and some other types of ‘dressers’, and usually a few mankinis.
“Afterwards we have some fire pots on the beach, and we sell soups and teas, but the crowd thins fairly quickly.” Funny, that.
John, who’s lived in the Falklands since the 1990s with wife Cherie, has organised the past two Midwinter Swims, having played a small part before that. The proceeds go to the sea cadets and the Seaman’s Mission.
“I have never done the swim,” he admits. “I feel that as principal organiser, I am punished enough already. I think all of my kids have, though.”
All “swimmers” will receive certificates of lunacy, “signed” by governor Nigel Haywood.
Despite His Excellency braving horizontal rain to complete the Falklands Marathon in under four hours, he is thought unlikely to be seen plunging into the sea in midwinter (and certainly not in a mankini).
“I am grateful for the governor’s permission to append his (facsimile) signature on the certificates of lunacy,” says John, diplomatically. “I’m not going to scare him off with suggestions he should do it!”
- The Outdoor Swimming Society gives this advice on jumping into very cold water: “Exhale as you jump in. In cold water the ribcage contracts, which leads many swimmers to feeling they can’t breathe. Shrieking, grunting and fwaw-fwaw-fwawing for your first strokes are perfectly natural accompaniments to a wild swim.”