Now, some centuries since the Georgian practice of “seabathing” was first introduced, the number of wild swimmers here is said to have nearly trebled.
As membership of the Scarborough Sea Swimmers doubles in months, members are to brave the waters in a relay for frontline emergency workers, and in aid of mental health awareness.
Led by local nurse Caroline Powell, a rally is to be launched today under We Remember Them 2021 (WRT), while raising money for the Laura Hyde Foundation mental health charity.
“We all know what an exceptionally tough year it has been for everybody,” said Mrs Powell. "We want to pay tribute to health, care, emergency service workers, and all those who have put their communities first and kept vital services running.
“This is a good way, a fun way, of getting the message out, as well as raising some much needed funds for a charity that ensures all medical and emergency services staff have access to support.”
The Scarborough Sea Swimmers was created after the 2012 Olympics, as a project honouring both the arts and the sea.
One member, Angie Sellers, 64, enjoys swimming most mornings as the sun rises. She used to often be alone, she said, but not any more.
“Interest has grown tremendously, and the amount of people swimming in the bay has probably trebled this past year,” she said. “A lot of them are women, which is interesting. There’s one group I often see that all wear bobble hats, even in the water.”
Sea swimming isn’t advised for the inexperienced, but as a group the Sea Swimmers can help to guide newcomers.
“Immersion in the sea, as often as I can, definitely lifts me up,” she added. “It’s so good for your health, both mentally and physically. It does get the endorphins going.”
There are two statues in Scarborough which signify the town’s swimming history, celebrating its status as the nation’s first seabathing resort in the 17th century.
The first, Diving Belle, represents the modern swimmer, while Bathing Belle is said to refer to her counterpart back in the spa town’s heyday.
For the rally today, swimmers will recite poetry at the Diving Belle before, accompanied by local drummers, they will then swim, walk or dance across the bay.
For Mrs Powell, herself an NHS worker, the ambition is to raise awareness of the efforts of frontline workers this past year, as well as the benefits of swimming.
Some in the sea swimmers’ group swim daily, even in winter as temperatures drop to 6c, while others travel from further afield across Yorkshire to take part.
“I’m lucky to have the sea on my doorstep,” she said. “It’s quite grounding – you can immerse yourself in exactly what you’re doing and perhaps leave some stresses behind.
“The sea is a draw, lots of people have so many happy memories of the sea. With swimming, it’s good physically and mentally, and it’s about the community and social aspects too.”
The first leg of the relay saw members of the Scarborough Kingfishers swimming the eight mile stretch of coast from Scarborough South Bay to Filey in a team relay.
For today’s rally, swimmers will be accompanied by local drumming group The Drum Club across South Bay Beach to the Spa Pavilion from 1pm.
The relay will then continue down the coast to Flamborough Head Lighthouse on July 17.
All campaign funds raised go to the Laura Hyde Foundation mental health charity, via a JustGiving site under Caroline Powell.
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