Page last updated at 12:57 GMT, Monday, 22 June 2009 13:57 UK

Women 'dip in the nip' for charity

180 women who took part in the all-female Dip in the Nip to raise money for charity

Almost 200 Irish women have braved the chilly waters of the North Atlantic - and their own blushes - to take a 'dip in the nip' to raise money for charity.

The event at Lissadell beach in County Sligo narrowly missed out on a world record, but is believed to have raised at least 50,000 euro for Action Breast Cancer.

Aged from 17 and 70, the 'dippers' came from as far afield as Dublin, Cork and Belfast to take part - and organiser Maire Garvey said it was an "exhilarating" experience for all involved.

"There was great excitement while we were waiting to go into the water, and it gave everyone an opportunity to bond.

"There was lots of craic and banter and a lot of laughter, and then off we went.

"We had a very low tide so there was a little bit of a trek to get out to the water, but once we were in there it was really fabulous.

"Women just started clapping spontaneously, and the next thing we knew, we were in a circle and there was just a great feeling of solidarity and camaraderie and a great sense of achievement as well," said Maire.

Security at the event was tight, with absolutely no men allowed near the beach.

"The gardaí were keeping the peeping toms away - we had two there, one male, but he was posted at an entrance well out of sight of the beach so that he couldn't see us, and he kept curious onlookers away.

"We had promised the women that we would do everything we could to protect their privacy, and it was worth it because it allowed them to be completely free and at ease and to thoroughly enjoy the event."

'I think you're mad'

Maire said the idea for the event came from a very unlikely source.

"It was a visit I made to a psychic.

"She said to me she was a bit hesitant to say it, because I think she was afraid she might offend me, but she asked me if I liked swimming naked.

"I said yes, I did, and she said she could see me and a bunch of women naked in the sea, and what was that about?

"My immediate reaction was that I had no idea, because I've only ever done it on my own and in places I won't be seen, but then when I was leaving the idea just struck me

"I said to her, wouldn't that be a brilliant way of raising money for breast cancer?

"She said, 'I think you're mad', but the idea stuck."

Maire and her fellow skinny-dippers raised at least 50,000 euro for charity - and narrowly missed out on a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

"I'm kind of glad we didn't have enough to break the record, because after the event I realised we would have been more focussed on meeting the technical requirements.

"We had brought along a lot of stewards for the record attempt, in case we got the numbers, but the stewards ended up coming into the dip as well so they would have been absolutely no use whatsoever if I had been trying to get a headcount.

"It was just as well it didn't happen, particularly as this was the first one, so we can look at doing this again next year.

"It would have taken away from the spontaneity and the fun."

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