20/01/2016 8:31 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

Nude Harbour Swim To Return To Sydney In 2016

Kate Puddicombe

The Sydney Skinny is not about nudity. This is something the event's founder, Nigel Marsh, wants to make very clear to anyone considering registering for the February event, now in its fourth year.

"The Sydney Skinny is about five things," Marsh told The Huffington Post Australia. "I could talk for hours about each of them, but essentially they are joy, courage, acceptance, attitude, and charity.

"You'll notice one of the words I haven’t said is nudity. I know I’ve set up a nude event that isn’t about nudity, and so I understand how people immediately leap to the wrong conclusion, but it is the wrong conclusion.

"You are clothed on the land, then straight away covered by the water, and you get a sarong as soon as you get out.

"I've had people say to me, 'oh yes, my cousin does nude hiking,' and that is the exact opposite to what this is.

"There is an element of risk and obviously it’s different to every other swim because it’s a nude one but it really isn't about nudity."

Held at Cobbler’s Beach at Middle Head in NSW, attendance to the unique event has increased by 40 percent each year since it launched in 2013.

"Talk to anybody who has done it, you won’t find anyone who says anything other than ‘that was fantastic'," Marsh said. "Some people say it’s the highlight of their year. It's designed to be a different and fabulous day out -- something that doesn’t harm anybody and raises a bit of money for charity at the same time."

Marsh has long believed in the benefits of ocean swimming -- stemming back to when he turned 40 and decided to participate in the the Bondi to Bronte Ocean Swim.

"In my little life, that was like climbing Everest with no shoes and one arm," Marsh said. "But I used it as a tool to help in other areas of my life. I just thought, 'when I walk out of the beach at Bronte I will not smoke, I will not drink,' -- and I haven't for 12 years, for what it’s worth.

"It was an amazingly fun thing. I enjoyed training for it and I enjoyed participating in it."

This started Marsh's love affair with the ocean, which he credits as helping him get through his father's death.

"My dad, god love him, passed away last year," Marsh told HuffPost Australia. "He had dementia and Parkinson's disease and has lived in a [nursing] home for the past 10 years. He was insensible, and it was very upsetting. Every time I called the home I would be upset.

"After those calls I would have to find a way to get on with life and stop being a big sook. So and jump in the ocean -- clothed -- and I used that as my little line in the sand.

"Then, utterly at random, I went for a swim in Middle Head, and had one of those light-bulb moments where all those things came together.

"I just thought, 'wow! The Bondi to Bronte helped me. How could it be even more fantastic? Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were a new communal ocean swim?'."

And so The Sydney Skinny was born.

What makes the event stand out (aside from the skinny-dipping part) is the fact it's not competitive, and Marsh insists it never will be.

"This is an ocean swim. It’s not a race. You can’t win it," Marsh said. "The event is about leaving all pretences behind, kickstarting a new and exciting chapter in life and focusing on the things that unite us and make life worth living.”

There are two courses -- a 300m and a 900m -- and neither event is timed.

Also, not everybody swims together -- there are 13 'waves'. The media is only invited to the first two waves (and swimmers in those waves are aware of this -- surprisingly, Marsh says these fill up first) and you can elect to go in a different wave from, say, Bob in accounts.

"One year we had a workplace do it and all the female employees went in wave three and all the male employees in wave nine," Marsh said.

He also points out, when you're not swimming, you're on the top of the hill (from which the beach is obscured) enjoying a festival-like atmosphere, complete with coffee carts, food and alcoholic drinks.

"The event has bands and pizza and beers and face painting," Marsh said. "When it's your waves turn, you go down a path, a windy path, fully clothed, through the national park to the beach. After you jump in and go for your swim, you go back to the festival."

Entrants are invited to raise funds for official charity partners, the McGrath Foundation and the Foundation of National Parks and Wildlife, or a charity of their choice.

The Sydney Skinny, presented by nudie, will be held on Sunday 28th February. Registrations are now open to people aged 18 years and over.