BRAVE swimmers took to the North Sea for an annual Christmas Day paddle.

More than 200 people counted down before they began their charge towards the chilly water at West Greensward.

Meanwhile, many hundreds more family and friends watched the festive swimmers from a safe distance on the beach.

Steve Hunt said he’d been taking part in the event for 55 years.

The 71-year-old said: “It’s tradition - you just do it because you do.

“People always ask about the cold but it’s not too bad once you’re in there.

“But I’m driving to London now so it’s woken me right up for the journey.”

Mr Hunt said he thought the water was around five degrees C with a bitter wind adding to the chill factor.

The tradition, which was started in 1953 by Clacton Swimming Club, saw some take to the waves in fancy dress costumes.

Vicky Gesterson, 52, explained she managed to persuade her twin, Debbie Sylvester, to take part in the dip for the first time.

She said: “We do it for the fun of it - I like a bit of fun and I like to make people laugh.

“I’ve been doing it for ten years so it’s become a real tradition.

“This year, I managed to get Debbie to do it too but unluckily for her I think it was the coldest one yet.”