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Cantabrians attempt skinny dipping record

Saturday 1 Dec 2012 4:33 p.m.

A few hundred Cantabrians stripped off this afternoon to try to break the world record for the most people skinny dipping.

Participants say it was all a bit of fun, and a recent court decision has backed the idea of innocent public nudity.

It was no time to be shy, with hundreds of brave swimmers joining the crowd on Sumner Beach.

“I didn't expect to go nudie swimming with hundreds of people,” says one participant.

Two-hundred-twenty-six people signed up for the record-breaking effort. Some almost got cold feet as the reality of swimming nude with hundreds of strangers hit home.

“There were a couple of things that made us half think of not doing it, but we did it in the end anyway,” says one skinny dipper from England.

Guinness World Records rules required all participants to be in the water at the same time for an official photo.

Despite the warm day, there were mixed reviews about the water temperature, with some saying it was “bloody freezing” and others saying it was “fantastic”.

Participants say it is harmless fun, but others disagree. Groups like Family First have objected to similar public displays of nudity.

But this week, the High Court in Tauranga upheld an appeal by naturist Andrew Pointon. It overturned his conviction for offensive behaviour, after a woman complained when she saw him running naked last year along a forest track.

“Hopefully this sets a precedent for people that use their discretion in the naturist world, to go out into the country and be naked,” says Mr Pointon.

He hopes the court decision will help change attitudes in New Zealand.

Organisers of today's skinny dip say they took measures to ensure the event was safe.

“It was well notified today so that anyone in the area that would find it offensive, they had the chance to clear out,” says radio host Dom Harvey. “It was a sanctioned event.”

It finished a few hundred short of the world record of 413, but another attempt will be made in Tauranga tomorrow afternoon.

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