PARIS (AFP) – From Edinburgh to Lisbon by way of Berlin, the chilly thrill of a New Year’s dip appealed to many looking for a bracing way to ring in 2019.
How cold? “Nine or nine-ten degrees Celsius, but it’s fine, it feels good,” said Claudy, who took part with around 1,000 others in the annual rite at Malo-les-Bains, northern France.
In Fahrenheit, this means a chilly 48 degrees.
Similar scenes played out elsewhere in Europe, some themed, others not, with the common denominator a willingness to take the plunge as others cheer from the shore wearing woollen caps and gloves.
Costumes and drinks are often part of the fun, though many simply donned a bathing suit and cap and dove in.
In the Netherlands, a crowd of about 10,000 had a swim in the North Sea at Scheveningen, where the water was a frosty seven degrees Celsius and an epic beach bonfire over 40 metres high had showered nearby streets with burning embers on New Year’s Eve.
English visitor Hillary, 28, summed up last Tuesday’s dip in one word, “glacial”.
Further north, at Norderney Island off the German coast, the North Sea was just five degrees Celsius, but 500 people of all ages jumped in just the same.
In the German capital, 11 “Berliner Seehund” (Berlin seals) honoured their swim club’s tradition in the Oranke lake.
The annual “Loony Dook” near Edinburg drew several hundred to the Forth river for a dip that began in 1987 when two friends decided it was a good way to sober up after the indulgences of New Year’s Eve.
These days the event is also a fundraiser for local charities, with evening gowns replacing bathing suits and a Donald Trump lookalike posing for photos.
In the slightly warmer waters of Portugal, Santa Clauses, jailbirds, and football players frolicked in the waves of Carcavelos beach near Lisbon, while in Cap d’Agde, southern France, several swimmers ensured that the local tradition of dipping sent the old year out without a stitch.