A female Batman taking a final drag on her cigarette found herself jostling at the start next to two Santas - staying jolly despite the weather - and a man encased in a spotty dog outfit.

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Further along the prom Lowestoft mayor Nick Webb was saying good morning to a man in a Bernie Clifton-style ostrich costume.

It was a surreal sight that has become familiar to the hordes of faithful spectators, numbering more than 1,000 today, who turn out come snow, ice or wind (in this case torrential rain) for Lowestoft’s Christmas Day charity swim.

The event has been running for 35 years and typically raises between £8,000 and £10,000 for a range of local charities.

Lawrence Chapman, deputy head teacher at the town’s Ashley School, has swum for the last 25 years as well as taking a lead role in organising it.

He said: “We have done it in all weathers. We have had ice and snow and one year lifeguards only let 10 swimmers enter the water at a time because it was so rough.

“The event has become a big part of so many people’s Christmas and it is great to see the effort swimmers put into fancy dress.”

His hope this year that the menacing black clouds would hold off proved in vain as a cloud burst heralded the 10am start.

There were cheers of encouragement as more than 200 runners raced along the prom before running down the beach and plunging into the choppy waves that looked the same colour as the sky.

As well as a colorful array of fancy dress, a few swimmers bared their bravery in swimming trunks and bikinis.

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