Every year for, well, a long time now, Unox soup company has sponsored the Nieuwjaarsduik on New Years Day. This year, there were 89 locations throughout the Kingdom of the Netherlands, including Suriname, Curacao, and other far-flung places. Unox estimates that 36,000 people participated this year. Yes, I said thirty-six thousand!!! I’m proud to say that this year, I was one of them. We’ll get to my experience farther down.
The main “duik” takes place outside of The Hague, where 10,000 people participated this year. A friend and I opted to stay a little more local, and we went to the Zandvoort Aan Zee location outside of Haarlem. I’d guess about 500 people took the plunge there. You show up, sign in, and they hand you a bright orange hat and a participation ribbon. Everyone gathers on the beach for a “warm up” that involves a lot of jumping around, and then you run into the ocean. My friend surmised that the jumping around allowed the photographers to get better “action shots” of the attractive bikini-clad participants. I’ll be less cynical and say it was to get your blood pumping.
While most people just show up in a swimsuit, there are plenty of folks who decide to do “themes” and dress up in costume. As with most things in the Netherlands, there didn’t see to be any ages or ethnicities excluded. Men and women, young and old, black and white, and even a few dogs.
After the warm-up, the MC yells “GO” and everyone sprints into the water. Unox hires photographers to snap pictures of the brave souls making the dive, and then the company sorts through the photos and picks a “Unox Meisje” (“Unox Girl”) for the year, and she gets her picture in the newspaper, and appears in some advertisements for the soup company.
Unox has already released a quick video about this year’s action in the Hague. If you don’t speak Dutch, you only need to know 2 words to understand this video. “Leuk” = “fun”, and “koud” = “cold”. Enjoy.
The weather this year was quite reasonable. At our beach, the temperature was in the upper 40’s (Fahrenheit), and the water was announced to be 46 degrees F. As the “go” signal was given, I started running towards the beach, leaving my friend behind. I ran, and ran, and ran. The tide was out, so the run seemed to take forever. By the time I reached the water, the people in front of me had already “dunked” and were coming back out. I went in until the water was about at my knee, and stepped on a sharp rock, so I turned to leave. My friend spotted me, and made me go farther out. She was brave and actually belly-flopped into the water, while I was content to wade in until the water was just below my waist.
I’m not sure what I expected, but it actually wasn’t too bad. The cold just numbs your body, and as I jogged back to find my wife (and my clothes), I wasn’t even cold. I took my time drying off and pulling my sweatshirt back on. After trying in vain to get all the sand off my feet, I put on my thick wool socks and my shoes. A few minutes later, with a bowl of Unox split-pea soup in my hand, only my feet were still numb. I was right as rain not 5 minutes after that.
If you want to check out other locations, or photos uploaded by participants, go to Unox’s Nieuwjaarsduik website. If you’re here in the Netherlands, start paying attention to De Telegraaf newspaper in the next few days to see who this year’s ‘Unox Meisje’ is.
The ultimate test whether something was fun is “Would you do it again?” I can honestly say I’d be more than happy to do this again. I think I’d like to go to the big “duik” in The Hague to really experience it though. Anyone up for a trip next year?