Exactly 7 years ago last Sunday, the very first skinny dip for charity in Ireland – and the world – took place at the lovely Lissadell Beach in Sligo. It was the inaugural Dip in the Nip (so-christened by the late, great Gerry Ryan) and at the time was considered crazy, shocking and impossible. Máire Garvey and her co-conspirator Grainne Gilmartin of the Sligo Wellness Centre happily admitted that they didn’t really have a clue what they were at when they decided to turn the audacious idea into a reality.
It was a very grey, drizzly morning (what IS it about Midsummers’ Day?!) but that didn’t stop 180 women (the first one was a women-only event) travelling from all over Ireland to do something so wonderfully challenging – Máire has since described it as an extreme sport, but with no training required. To cap it all, tide times had not been factored into the planning, so everybody had to run for about a mile before hitting water.
All Dips are special, and all first Dips especially so. But that very first one, that first run into a chilly, drizzly North Atlantic had about it a unique sense of adventure, of awe, of joy. So many of those Dippers had experienced cancer themselves, some of them more than once. Many of them had single or double mastectomies, some without re-constructive surgery. Others were there to honour somebody close to them.
People continue to do the Dip because they want to be part of the fight against cancer, part of the solution, and while the priority for the Dip in the Nip – as ever – is raising money for the local cancer charity that each Dip partners with, it has become increasingly clear that for the people who take part, what the Dip gives them is so much more than being part of that fight: it gives them something unique, deeply personal and long-lasting.
One Dipper spoke of how being naked in the sea healed her acrimonious relationship with her deceased, alcoholic father, and allowed her to say goodbye to him, something she had been unable to do previously.
A male Dipper described it as a special way to raise money that honours body and spirit, that is beautiful and respectful, filled with love and hope and remembrance.
Another Dipper, who had a double mastectomy, echoed the sentiments of many when she said after her first Dip that running naked into the sea had given her back her body, her self-confidence and her sexuality.
This is something common to most, if not all Dippers, whether or not they personally have had cancer. Running naked into the sea seems to re-connect them with their bodies. It’s as though they fall in love with them, and re-discover just how beautiful those bodies are, regardless of size, shape or lumpy bits! It is such a simple act, that of immersing oneself in the waves, and yet it has powerful consequences for those who do it.
It also takes people outside of their comfort zones, even Veteran Dippers who have Dipped many times. For some, it is an extreme sport that – mercifully – requires no training. And it offers so many rewards, not just for the benefiting charity, but for the Dippers themselves.
The 2015 Sligo Dip in the Nip, again in support of S.H.O.U.T., will take place on Sunday 5th July at 8am on a beach in Sligo. Máire feels proud of the fact that the very first one ever took place not just in Ireland, but in Sligo. And Sligo has adopted it as its’ own, especially the Beltra Country Market who have taken ownership of it in the best possible way. And will do so again on the 5th when they provide their homemade goodies and the welcome hot tea, coffee and soup after the Dip. There will also be an opportunity for Dippers to purchase some lovely crafts from the Country Market as well, as souvenirs of the day.