HUNDREDS of people braved the cold waters at Whitmore Bay on Barry Island earlier today, as the annual New Year's Day Swim drew in what is believed to be the highest number of participants in its history.

Between five and six-hundred people are estimated to have taken part in the swim, with hundreds more watching on from the beach as the entrants took to the water.

Event organiser and co-founder Rob Salter blew the klaxon at 12pm this afternoon to give swimmers the signal to enter the water, with many electing to sprint their way down to the water's edge before diving into the cold sea.

Despite unexpected blue skies and sunshine making conditions a little less unfriendly than they may have been, participants agreed it was nonetheless a particularly fresh way to kickstart the New Year.

Laura, 29, said: "It was okay when I went in, but once I reached the lifeguards that's when it started to get pretty cold."

And Helen, from Llantwit Major, agreed: "It was very cold, I couldn't feel my feet," she said.

Kerry Tucker and her family were among a large number of those taking part in fancy dress, and echoed the sentiments of many that the swim had been a brilliant experience.

Ms Tucker said: "It's my third time doing it. We come back every year because even though it's cold, it's fun.

"The excitement and the adrenaline running in with a huge crowd is brilliant.

"You can recover from your hangover quite easily running into the sea!"

The event has been hosted every year since 1986, when the idea was first conceived by organiser Rob Salter and a group of his friends who had dared each other to go for a seaside swim on New Year's Day. After humble beginnings with only around half a dozen participants, the event has grown significantly over the past decade to become one of the biggest organised New Year swims in Wales.

Mr Salter, 53, said he believed the event was the biggest yet, adding that he intended to keep on growing it in the years to come.

"I think today’s probably the biggest one we’ve had. I’d estimate there were between five and six hundred people in the water," he said.

"We'd definitely like to keep growing it. It's quite easy to run, there's not a lot of paperwork to it. The Whitmore Bay Life Guards look after the health and safety side of it, the council are really good at supporting it and it ties in nicely with the parkrun as well."

The swim has also taken on a charitable angle in recent years, with Velindre's Headfirst brain tumour appeal the benefactors of this year's event.

Barry resident Judith Dutton approached the event organisers to arrange the partnership, after her son Leighton was diagnosed with a brain tumour in early 2017.

"It’s not easy, it’s been a very tough year," said Ms Dutton.

"My son had a brain tumour during 2017, and in 2016, he did the swim for me because I had a brain haemorrhage five years ago.

"Leighton did it in this costume last year, so I did it in the same costume this year for him.

"It’s pretty inspiring once you’re down there, everyone feels that they’re doing it for something.

"I’d like to raise £1,000, that would be really nice, to support people who have to go through times like the year I’ve just had."