The Killyleagh Dippers and Strippers going one year on
Strangford Lough has been a popular place for swimming for centuries and the shores of Killyleagh was no exception.
In 1833 the local press reported that “the situation of Killyleagh is truly picturesque – its proximity to all the towns on Lough Strangford renders it interesting and agreeable”, writes Chris Scott.
The annual Killyleagh Regatta has been a feature in the calendar year from the early 1800’s.
In 1877 a report in the local press stated that it was more than half a century since the event was established.
That dates it to the 1827 period at least. In September 1875 a swimming match was introduced into the regatta. The race took place over a 300-yard course.
Members of the Totton family from Killyleagh appeared to excel in the early races. Interestingly, they applied several different swimming strokes, referred to as the “Johnston Stroke” and the “Octopus Stroke” or “Trudgen.”
Almost 150 year later, there are still a number of folks deploying a number of different strokes off the Killyleagh shoreline.
Each week, for the past year, you may have noticed a gathering of hardy individuals braving the water off the Quay area for regular swimming sessions.
The Killyleagh Dippers and Strippers have just celebrated their first anniversary and they partied in style in the Dufferin Arms on the evening of Sunday 27th August 2023 with an anniversary dinner and prize giving.
When you look at the prize categories then you will quickly realise what a fun group this is.
“Jump of the Year,”, “Belly Flop of the Year,” “Most Glamorous Dipper,” “Scaredy Cat of the Year,” and “Least Dedicated – Woose” were just some of the accolades up for grabs on the evening in question.
The group also made a surprise presentation to Paula Beers, who is widely recognised as the main organiser of the Dippers and Strippers.
She said: “It was such a surprise. I’m only too glad to be able to help. We have the best group!” she remarked (on a social media post which is exclusive to the members).
Paula, affectionately referred to as ‘PB Tours,’ has arranged numerous outings for the group during the past twelve months.
The Dippers and Strippers link up with other swimming groups across the province and experience different swimming environments.
Road trips, over the past year, have included group visits to Ballywalter, Brompton, Dunmurry, Galway, Gleno Waterfall, Kilclief, Lough Neagh, Portmuck and Warrenpoint.
The highlight of these trips has to be the breakfast, brunch or lunch which has proved great craic amongst the participants.
They are no strangers to evening, night and moonlight swims, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day dips.
Of course, safety is paramount and members have had talks from members of the Coastguard, RNLI and Outdoor Partnership. The attendees at a first-aid course learnt CPR techniques and the use of an automated external defibrillator.
Earlier in the year the Killyleagh group helped raise money for charity during World Cancer Day Dip for Young Lives.
The Dippers and Strippers are not a group exclusive to locals in the Killyleagh area. Swimmers regularly travel from beyond the district, including Saintfield and Killinchy.
And they are from all walks of life and across all age groups. Everyone is welcome.
“I had walked past these guys and girls at The Quay on a regular basis, but I never for one moment thought I would ever be joining them.
“I was never a good swimmer and I didn’t think it would be my thing,” remarked one local Killyleagh resident.
Earlier this year the resident decided to take the plunge. “When I finally plucked up the courage to join them I found it to be a fantastic and an exhilarating experience and it is right on our own doorstep.
“I have never experienced anything like it and the camaraderie is great. Everyone looks out for each other.”
The swimming times each day are variable and dependent on tide times.
The group has a private Facebook page where swim times are advertised on an almost daily basis.
There is of course a variable water temperature throughout the year. The group have recorded temperatures at 6.8 degrees in March, rising to 16.3 degrees in August.
The swimmers are well-prepared for conditions in the Lough. Wetsuits, gloves, water shoes, swimming costumes, hats and brightly coloured swim safety buoys are regularly adorned by the group.
The Dippers and Strippers have designed their own logo and now have branded hoodies, hats and banner.
It is recommended by all the experts that you sip a warm drink after your swim and indulge in something sugary if needs must!
Thanks to Paula, the Dippers and Strippers are well catered for when they exit the water.
Killyleagh Dippers and Strippers have two road trips planned – a visit to Bloody Bridge on Sunday 3rd September and Portrush/Portstewart towards the end of September.
If you have ever fancied trying it out, have a chat with the guys and gals down at The Quay, Killyleagh or contact the group via their Facebook page for further details.
Killyleagh Dippers and Strippers | Facebook