It all started while Ruth Hunt was driving and listening to Simon Mayo on the radio. Jax Higginson, organiser of North East Skinny Dip, called in to the station to promote her event (a skinny dip in Northumberland that’s been going for seven years) and Ruth suddenly thought, we should have one of those in the South West too.
“It just made so much sense to me,” she says. “A skinny dip with the support of hundreds of others, to push mental health sufferers to the extreme of their discomfort, to then gain a huge surge of endorphins from the cold water and the immense sense of achievement, to conquer fears and insecurities and make new friends all in the space of a few minutes of madness!”
Ruth’s first step was to contact Jax to ask for her blessing to organise a similar event at the opposite end of the country, inspired from Jax’s initial idea, and then, with support of her good friend Dee Olof, Ruth began the search for a suitable location. They decided Summerleaze Beach in Bude is perfect, for several reasons. Firstly, it’s a lovely wide beach. Secondly, it’s also the venue for the beautiful Bude Sea Pool and Friends of Bude Sea Pool are fully behind the event. Thirdly, the beach is also the location for a popular annual Christmas day dip, so the local authorities are used to the idea of hundreds of people running into the sea all at the same time.
The event will be a fundraiser for MIND, the mental health charity, an organisation that Ruth wants to support for both personal and professional reasons.
“Basically, I have suffered from depression since the break-up of my marriage, and have been a single mum now for 7 years,” she says. “We are a wonderful little family (children aged 13 and 10), and things are certainly more positive than they ever were before, but it does not stop that ‘big black dog’ of depression returning with little notice or regard for the strength you need to work through it when it rears its ugly head.
“I work in a primary school as a teaching assistant but spend an increasing amount of time out of the classroom these days, listening to children with problems and giving them an avenue to release their own worries. The pressures on parents in modern day life are causing so much harm, and these worries are filtering down from parent to child, such to increase the risk of causing poor mental health in children from an early age. It can be heart-breaking to listen to, knowing you can’t fix these children's problems for them. I had to do something to give back, so I took on the challenge of organising the SW Skinny.”
However, Ruth has ambitions much bigger than a quick naked dip in the sea. A full weekend of activities is planned, starting with a night by the campfire at Cerenety Eco Camping, with food and a party atmosphere as people get to know each other prior to the dip. She is also keen to emphasise that this is not a naturist weekend.
She says: “The only nude element is the skinny dip, and even this is not compulsory. You can come in a swimsuit, or even fancy dress if you would like to!”
As well as organising, Ruth hopes to take part, but admits she is worried. “Just like many others who may be nervous about taking the plunge, I have never skinny dipped before. I also get grumpy when I’m cold and don’t even particularly enjoy camping! In short, this is about as far out of my comfort zone as I feel I could get – but I am expecting this to be a wonderful, even life-changing experience, with benefits to my mental health and positive outlook and self-body image.”
The inaugural SW Skinny will take place on 19 May 2019. Find out more and register at: www.swskinny.org.uk