I didn’t even know it was scheduled for yesterday (I would have brought a swimsuit), but the annual polar bear plunge (polar bear in Dutch is ‘ijsbeer’, literally “ice bear”) in the North Sea on the beach of Ostend was CANCELLED due to a slightly stormy weather forecast and the city’s insistence on ‘guaranteed safety’ for all participants.
With normally only this one-day-event exception, the regular winter ban on swimming goes from October all the way until June. As if it’s a swimming pool (it’s not!), swimming in the North Sea on the Belgian coast is prohibited unless life guards are on duty and it’s “swimming season”. Lame. Typical over-regulation gone astray. Kudos to the 1,300 life guards of the Belgian Coast, though, creating one of the safest beaches in the world [*] and a very fun place to grow up near as a kid.
The right to swimming (and possibly drowning) in the ocean, at your own risk, however, should never be infringed upon, in my utopian opinion. Although… not that it matters all that much, ’cause I’ve swum near there in February once (it helps when it’s snowing) and no one walking around on the beach seemed to care either way. Raised red flags and police patrols (as well as lifeguards), however, make this weekend probably one of the least inviting to enjoy an invigorating swim.