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May Dipsticks

St Andrews' Students Obsession with 'the Dip'.

One of many things that makes our petite slice of Scotland so beautiful is the sea. Sometimes placid, though frequently tumultuous, that expressive ocean of ours is in some sense reflective of our emotive experience as students. It’s a form of pathetic fallacy made manifest, if you will. As inhabitants of the town, and much like my tee-shots on the 4th of The Eden, we seem unavoidably drawn to that old water hazard in a plethora of ways.

Some use the sea as a place for ponderance, wandering along our windswept beaches, searching for solution or solace offered by the cadence of the tides. West Sands, for example, the perfect spot for melancholy reflection or perhaps for a couple, relationship on the rocks, who seek a secluded spot with a brooding atmosphere to have a full-blown domestic.

We may also fondly recall our devotion to May Dip whereupon a unanimous student pilgrimage is made, followed by a horde of paparazzi, cameras at the ready, to East Sands following a night of bacchanalian antics as though it were an excerpt from The Secret History. Of course, this primordial celebration concludes with a phalanx of inebriated students, wearing an assortment of clothing, hurtling themselves into the sea in a sobering ritual of similar spiritual symbolism to baptism.

Yet of late, a new breed of St Andrean seafarers have emerged from the depths and added to this community. ‘Dippers’, they call themselves. Wim Hof wannabes that brave the frigid seas come rain or shine for little ostensible purpose. The casuals profess the activity’s potency as a hangover cure, to which I ask humbly, what ever happened to the greasy fry up or the sit-down shower? Other seldom sea-goers claim it’s a mark of self-discipline and to that I say, ‘Really? You, disciplined?’.

These casuals, however, do not reflect the regulars. The casuals waddle down to their beach of choice only when the sun smooths the snatching cold into more of an invigorating freshness. Their Instagram stories are inundated, requiring a barrage of taps to blitz through and all who they encounter are immediately made aware of recent activities. Meanwhile, the regulars stride unfazed by lashing rain or swirling torrents. They emerge somewhat rouge but with the amphibious swagger of a Halle Berry or a Daniel Craig, renowned for their smooth sea exits in Die Another Day and Casino Royale.

I recall a time, this semester no less, where I decided to brave the chill and take part in one such watery revival. The entirety of Castle Sands averted their eyes as I removed my shirt and exposed my practically luminous rig and near-withered legs. I wobbled into the water, spindly arms flapping for balance, before resigning this enterprise and crashing into the murk, extinguishing my aforementioned incandescence. Immediately, breath was robbed from heaving lungs. Worst of all, the chill initiated the total and unbridled retreat of my already modest appendage into something bearing startling resemblance to some sort of boiled legume: a butterbean, if you must know.

Shivering uncontrollably, I glance to my left. Carving through the cold with near perfect form and steady pace is an individual who, for a fleeting moment, brought that beloved Aussie show, H20: Just Add Water, to reality. Goose-bumped, with teeth-chattering between blue lips, I waddled out with the same elegance with which I entered to the relative comfort of the sand. It clung to me, as sand does, detaching on my arrival home before predictably being traipsed all throughout my house, much to the joy of my flatmates. Never again. Regardless of regularity, I tip my hat to those braving the waves. Even on a summery day that sea can be bitterly cold and beyond humbling.

Photo by Trinny Duncan

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