After booking a last-minute flight to the Netherlands to spend New Year with a friend living in The Hague, I found myself being roped into the Nieuwjaarsduik Scheveningen. So, while you were nursing your New Year’s Eve hangover, I was taking a plunge into the North Sea as part of Den Haag’s New Year’s Day swim!
This is the story of how I was peer-pressured into running down Scheveningen Beach in nothing but my swimming cossie and an orange hat on the 1st January, wondering how I’d wound up in Holland, throwing myself into the icy waves on Nieuwjaarsdag (New Year’s Day).
This post contains affiliate links, which means this blog receives a small commission on purchases at no extra cost to you. Affiliate income helps keep this blog alive and I never link to a service unless I personally use and recommend it.
What is Nieuwjaarsduik Scheveningen?
The Nieuwjaarsduik is the New Year’s Day Dive, which is a Dutch tradition where you jump into the sea or a lake on the first day of the New Year. People do this all over Holland, but the biggest turnout is at Scheveningen Beach, where 10,000 people take part in the New Year’s dip into the North Sea.
Scheveningen is the name of the beach in Den Haag (The Hague), where the Nieuwjaarsduik has taken place since 1965. The tradition was started by a swim club who wanted to start the New Year fresh, then the event received national attention after it was sponsored by a big soup brand (more on this soup later).
When does the Nieuwjaarsduik New Year’s Dive take place?
On the 1st January (New Year’s Day), at 12.00pm. Joining only costs a couple of euros, but make sure you pick up your tickets early (registration begins at 10.30am on the day of the event), and don’t forget a change of clothes!
Where does the Nieuwjaarsduik New Year’s Dive take place?
There are events all over the Netherlands, but the biggest event is at Scheveningen Beach, in Den Haag (The Hague).
Why is this a good idea?
It’s cold and it’s bold! Start the New Year by being brave, doing something you wouldn’t usually do and – literally – get a fresh start!
No, really, but why?
My friends were doing it and I didn’t want to be left out! Also, the last time I was in the Netherlands, I went to Amsterdam and didn’t see anything, so for my second trip to Holland and the Hague, I felt that I needed to accomplish at least something!
How cold are we talking?
The average temperature of the North Sea in winter is 6 °C (43 °F). However, we found the coldest part was the sand. Running out to the tide is further than you think and the sand is freezing! In a way this was good as my feet were so cold I didn’t even notice the cold on the rest of me.
What’s the atmosphere like?
Pretty insane. Everyone is wearing their bikinis, trunks, cow costumes, inflatable flamingos (or in one case budgie smugglers with #budgiesmugglers on the rear) and a bright orange woolly hat. There are plenty of lovely ‘oompa’ songs to bop along to in order to keep warm in the run-up to the event.
I was wearing a Gryffindor onesie for courage.
Then, as midday approaches you strip off, count down from ten to one (in Dutch, if you can) and when you hear the klaxon, you sprint towards the waves! We somehow mistimed the countdown and ended up doing a mad peeling of layers before running in.
Supposedly, the rule is that you have to get in up to your shoulders, though I didn’t see many participants that managed it. The three of us ran holding hands into the waves, mostly dodging those who were running back out, and so we opted to crouch down into a wave in order to get the water up to our shoulders and have our contribution count!
Then, it’s a foot-numbing uphill climb back up Scheveningen Beach to find your clothes. Not an easy feat when everyone’s stuff looks the same and everyone you try to spot is wearing an identical orange hat, supplied by Unox.
How did you warm up?
I couldn’t feel my toes, which at least distracted from the rest of my body feeling cold. It’s surprising how fast you start to feel warm after you dry off, strip off wet clothes (and I learnt the hard way that the Dutch are not shy about getting naked in public) and put dry clothes back on.
Then, there was the ubitquitous complimentary soup near Scheveningen Beach’s exit. This is also part of the tradition, but I’m sorry, it tastes awful. Lucky for me, participants are also given a whole can of their own as a souvenir to take home, so let me know if you need any flavoured cement.
We warmed up in a much better way: by running home for a hot shower, changing into warm clothes and then eating at a restaurant with a sea view, sipping steaming gluvine!
What is Happy New Year in Dutch?
Would you do it again?
Maybe not! It was certainly an adrenaline rush, but I think we were lucky with the weather (sun was out, no snow). I’ve heard that some places in the Netherlands even do the Nieuwjaarsduik nude, so that could be an experience for next year?
Or perhaps I’ll do the same strategy and book a flight last minute on Skyscanner for a quick New Year’s Eve getaway… and choose somewhere slightly warmer next time!