Diving into the past of the Dutch New Year’s Dive

Diving into the past of the Dutch New Year’s Dive

So, have you done it yet, the New Year’s Dive (Nieuwjaarsduik)? Although it has grown into a distinct Dutch tradition, the New Year’s Dive does not actually originate from the Netherlands. Let's delve into the past of this fun (and freezing) element of Dutch culture!

What is the New Year’s Dive exactly?

It is quite simply what it says on the tin, a dive into a cold body of water to ring in the New Year. It literally gives you a fresh start. And it really is as easy as just jumping into cold water. Perhaps its simplicity is what has made it so popular.

Nowadays, thousands of people across the country gather in several locations to splash into the cool depths after a party-filled New Year’s Eve. But it wasn’t always this way. The first edition of the New Year’s Dive in 1960 in the Netherlands was much smaller and the 1965 edition in Scheveningen only had seven participants.

When was the first New Year’s Dive in the Netherlands?

You mustn’t get these dates mixed up. The first-ever New Year’s Dive in the Netherlands was held in Zandvoort in 1960; organised by Ok van Batenburg. It was only in 1965 that the event began to be held in Scheveningen and started to grow into what it is today.

The 1965 edition was organised by ex-channel swimmer Jan van Scheijndel, and has since grown into an extremely popular event, with 10.000 people participating in the 2018 dive in Scheveningen, just one of the more than 200 locations where you can take the leap. Unlike the first editions, the New Year’s Dive is now sponsored by Unox and has been since 1998. More on this later.

Where does the New Year’s Dive come from?

So, many New Year’s Dives are organised around the world in places such as the UK, Switzerland and America, but where does this crazy event come from? Drum roll, please… Canada is the answer!

In 1920, Peter Pantages decided to organise a “polar bear plunge” to ring in the New Year, essentially starting the Vancouver Polar Bear Swim Club which organises the dive to this day. Back then only 10 people braved the cold waters of the English Bay.

And now Unox sponsors it?

Yes, pretty much. Unox has been an official sponsor since 1998 and those participating in their organised dives receive an Unox beanie and some much-needed hearty pea soup after such a cold plunge. The participation fee for the event in Scheveningen is 4 euros.

If you are thinking about taking part, you can visit the Unox website to see where the closest official dive for you is taking place. The website is, however, in Dutch.

Video: YouTube / Unox Nederland

Thumb image credit: Unox

Mina Solanki


Mina Solanki

Completed her Master's degree at the University of Groningen and worked as a translator before joining IamExpat. She loves to read and has a particular interest in Greek mythology. In...

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