‘Respect!’ shouts Ralph at his fellow student Helmi as they arrive on their bikes. A group of biology students gathered at the corner of De Nude near the harbour in Wageningen on Thursday evening last week, 25 January, for the traditional winter swim in the icy waters of the Rhine.
At the entrance to the river at Wolfswaard there are a few more diehards waiting. In the end, ten of them make their way to the banks of the river. ‘Naked?’ asks one of the boys. Of course, otherwise it’s not a real dip, the other men let it be known.
‘What’s best?’ asks another who’s already got his trousers off. ‘Should I take my sweater or my shoes off first?’ The ground is freezing cold. One of the girls has cleverly thought of bringing flip flops along. Dressed in a white bathrobe she waits until the rest are ready.
Then it’s off with the boxer shorts and the biologists run screaming into the freezing river. A look of surprise flits briefly over their faces. The water feels warm compared with the outside air. But it’s only a matter of seconds before they are chilled to the bone. Still screaming they run back out of the water, looking for their towels and waiting for feeling to return to their limbs. ‘Pain? How on earth can you feel pain if you can’t even feel your legs,’ calls one of the boys, shivering as he tries to pull his trousers back on. The next dip in the spring should be a piece of cake, the students decide once they are dressed.