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Can you really swim in the North Sea?

Posted on Jul 18, 2021 by

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The North Sea coast in the Netherlands is lined with spectacular, wide beaches and beautiful sand dunes areas. There are many sea resorts and North Sea is a popular summer destination for tourists, coming mostly from Germany. But is the sea water warm enough to have a swim? If you go to a Dutch beach in the summer, most of the time you won’t see many people entering the water. You will see a few brave ones carefully approaching the waters, some entering gradually, others diving in one move, to avoid the gradual freezing, and the kids playing at the shore.

Swimming in the North Sea 01

If you asked me this question ten years ago when I first moved to the Netherlands, I would have told you it’s not possible to bathe in the North Sea. That this is a thing only Nordic people can do, the ones who are trained since childhood in these icy waters. The waters of the North Sea are cold, ranging between 14 and 20 degrees C in the summer months. If you come from a country where the sea water temperature is above 22 degrees C all summer, and up to 26 degrees, it will be hard for you to swim in the chilly water of the North Sea.

However, swimming in the North Sea is possible. Over the years, while I have adapted to the colder climate, and I started considering a 21 degrees C day perfect for beach time, I also started getting used to the cold waters of the sea. I can’t sunbathe without swimming, so I had to train my body for my new environment. From a person who would go to the beach only if the temperature was at least 27 degrees C (but preferably over 30), and not touch the water if it wasn’t warm enough, I am now one of the few people on the beach who swim even if the water temperature is 14-15 degrees C. This means the water is icy and not everyone dares to try it. I can feel my internal organs freezing and the sensation stays with me for the entire day, even after a hot shower. I only do it if the outside temperature is OK and it’s not windy. But if the North Sea reaches 17 degrees C, I can happily swim; it feels cold only when you first enter, then you get used to the water. If it’s 20 degrees C, I already think I’m swimming in the Mediterranean!

Swimming in the North Sea 02
Swimming in the North Sea 03

In the past years, the summers have been warmer than usual in the Netherlands, and there are some very warm days. If you visit during those days, you’ll probably have no problem cooling with a swim in the North Sea. For the rest, it depends on how resistant to cold you are. But even if you don’t dare swimming, visiting the Dutch beaches is a very pleasant experience. Walking on the long beaches and climbing the dunes are unique experiences that you will enjoy, nevertheless. And nothing beats a dinner on the beach, watching the sunset!

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