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Meet the man who’s dipped into the sea on 42 Christmas days in a row

PUBLISHED: 10:58 01 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:24 01 January 2020

Joe Annis, who has completed every Christmas Day swim and more in Lowestoft. Picture: Mick Howes

Joe Annis, who has completed every Christmas Day swim and more in Lowestoft. Picture: Mick Howes

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It is a popular tradition that has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds and attracted thousands of hearty swimmers for a festive dip.

The Christmas Day swim in Lowestoft 2019. Pictures: Mick HowesThe Christmas Day swim in Lowestoft 2019. Pictures: Mick Howes

In Lowestoft, the Christmas Day swim has seen a range of worthy causes benefitting over the past 40-plus years.

But among the many that have braved the icy North Sea, only a select few can claim to have been part of every swim.

The Christmas Day swim in Lowestoft 2019. Pictures: Mick HowesThe Christmas Day swim in Lowestoft 2019. Pictures: Mick Howes

One Lowestoft man, however, can. And Joe Annis has played a major role in being part of the popular swim since it first began more than 40 years ago.

Mr Annis, a director at Sentinel Enterprises Ltd, helped to establish the event when he was working as a lifeguard, and has subsequently taken part in every swim so far.

This year's event was the 42nd official Christmas Day swim at Lowestoft as the fundraiser is organised and supported by Sentinel Leisure Trust, HM Coastguard, the Lowestoft Volunteer Lifeguard Corps, the Lowestoft Lions, St John Ambulance and RNLI.

But for Mr Annis, it was his 44th festive swim.

Mr Annis - a former beach lifeguard services supervisor and head beach lifeguard of more than 47 years with the then Waveney District Council - said: "It started at Briar Cliff School in Gunton 44 years ago, as they had foreign students from France over for Christmas.

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"It was a water sports school as well and they decided that they would like to go canoeing.

"So they phoned the lifeguards and asked if we would mind coming for an hour on Christmas morning to keep an eye on the canoeists when they went into the water.

"We originally did it on the old North Beach opposite to the school and we went in for a dip afterwards.

"Then we did the same the following year and from that the charity swim evolved."

With the 'official' Christmas Day swim moving from north Lowestoft to south Lowestoft, Mr Annis said: "There were seven of us who started it and we were all lifeguards including Bruce Wayman, Mark Attenborrow and Lawrence Chapman.

"We decided to hold it on the South Beach, as it was more accessible and we held it in front of the Hatfield Hotel.

"It has grown over the years and now we raise in the region of £10,000 a year with 100 per cent going to charity.

"I enjoy the swim each year and for me the worst part is the night before when you remember that you've got to do it the next day.

"But on the day the adrenalin rush alleviates the cold to be fair.

"It's just fantastic."

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