New Year's dip: Europe enjoys a frosty tradition

Swimmers running to the water during the start of the traditional New Year's swimming event, on Jan 1, 2019, in Norderney, Germany.
Swimmers running to the water during the start of the traditional New Year's swimming event, on Jan 1, 2019, in Norderney, Germany.PHOTO: AFP

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.

Similar scenes played out elsewhere in Europe - some themed, others not - with the common denominator being a willingness to take the plunge as others cheer from the shore wearing woollen caps and gloves.

Costumes and glasses of champagne 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 7 deg C and an epic beach bonfire more than 40m high showered nearby streets with burning embers on New Year's eve.

English visitor Hillary, 28, summed up Tuesday's (Jan 1) dip in one word: "Glacial."

Further north, at Norderney Island off the German coast, the North Sea was just 5 deg C, 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 Edinburgh 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 fund raiser 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 skinny dipping sent the old year out without a stitch.