Over 4,500 people waited with great enthusiasm to swim into the Rhine River and float downriver with the current. The water temperature this year was also not bad at 21°C / 70°F. Throughout the afternoon, adventurers young and old made their way to the river, most carrying a waterproof bag, to keep clothes and valuables dry, and ease their journey down the river.
The bags are sold at various places throughout Basel, including the Tourist Information office. The bags have several purposes: easier to spot a person in the water, you can keep your clothes with you, and you don’t have to return to where you got in the river since you have everything with you.
For safety there is a police boat that slowly cruises up and down the river looking for any struggling swimmers. The Basel’s Life Saving Club is there too. Some of the club even takes part in the event as rescue floaters. They can be recognized by their yellow swim caps and are there for immediate help if it arises.
Several swimmers made multiple trips that day, but the majority waited for the 6pm blast to start. Like arctic penguins they rushed into the water – a beautiful sight. The current quickly swept them down river. Moving at about the speed of a fast walk, they went, hooting and calling out to each other.
As those waiting along the shoreline headed out, others streamed towards the river from what seemed like an endless cue of revelers. Most arriving in their street clothes, they then quickly donned their swimwear on the spot, before wading out to join the vast floating party. Someone aimed a firehouse into the air, adding to the pandemonium, causing squeals and laughter all around.
At the start and finish, there were various promotional gifts distributed to the participants. The main sponsors were Migros, IWB, Nivea and Basler Kantonalbank. They gave out things like sunscreen, balloons, blow up balls, and orange turtle shaped floats.
At the end, all that was left sitting along the shoreline were those who came to watch. That is, until swimmers started appearing once again, for their second go around. What a fun filled event this proved to be.