Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May Dip

One of the traditions here at St Andrews is the May Dip. At dawn on the morning of 1 May, students gather on a beach and run out into the North Sea. They've usually stayed up the night before, bonfires on the beach, and then stripping down and running into very cold water.

Some say it's in honour of John Honey who over a hundred years ago dove into the sea to rescue five persons who would've drowned after their boat capsized out at sea. Others say that it's the only way to remove the curse placed on undergrads if they step on the cursed PH stones on North Street. Others just think that it's a really good idea.

My intention was to stay up to do it. The reality was that I had climbed a mountain the day before and I was TIRED.

So, instead of 4:30am when everyone else was doing it, my friend Kate and I decided to wait till the more sane hour of 7am to go down to East Sands and walk into the sea. Sure, it wasn't technically right, but... sleep was good.

North Sea from East Sands on May Day.

Looking out towards the town and the Fife Coastal Path.

And honestly, I think this view was better. The sun was brilliant overhead, even at 7am. It amazes me how early the sun rises here now that we're on summer time. The water sparkled like crystal, the beach was empty save for the few other people who were doing the same thing we were, and we got the experience of the North Sea in May.

Which, if you couldn't guess, is... COLD. Seriously, there needs to be a better word than cold because it was further than cold. And I've been polar bearing in the Chesapeake Bay in December. That was cold. This was COLD. I got into the water up to mid-calf before the cold burned so much that I had to get out. I don't know how some of my friends dove in head first at 4am, although I'm gathering that alcohol, lack of sleep, and peer pressure all played pretty significant roles in that decision.

Me? I think I'll appreciate the uncrowded beach and the sunshine in my own version of the tradition.


  1. I COMPLETELY would have done the same exact thing as you, perhaps. Except I would have only dipped my feet, at the most. Eh, everyone has their weakness. :)

  2. I would have done the same thing, too. We do a similar thing here in Los Angeles at UCLA and my friends and I waited until a decent hour. Of course, it's not as cold here so it's a little bit more refreshing but none the less, 4:30 is an absurd hour! Beautiful photos, too. I think they've captures how awesome the beach is perfectly.