Dunkerque _ Longe-côte © CRTC Hauts-de-France Nicolas BryantDunkerque _ Longe-côte © CRTC Hauts-de-France Nicolas Bryant
©Dunkerque, longe-côte |CRTC Hauts-de-France - Nicolas Bryant

Sea wading in Dunkirk

Dunkirk is the birthplace of sea wading, a sport invented in 2007 by a rowing instructor who “wanted something that would give the whole body a workout”. And it certainly does just that, with the abs, chest, glutes and lats all put through their paces, especially when the sea is rough. The comradely sport is still in touch with its roots on the north Opal Coast, where everyone braves the elements, helps their neighbour and has a good time… together!

Northern France _ Malo © Office de Tourisme et des Congrès de Dunkerque-Rêves de PandaNorthern France _ Malo © Office de Tourisme et des Congrès de Dunkerque-Rêves de Panda
©Northern France, Malo|Office de Tourisme et des Congrès de Dunkerque - Rêves de Panda

The complete body and mind workout  ̶  and suitable for everyone!

Whether you’re a beginner, seasoned regular or instructor, everyone is treated equally and made to feel part of the group. No discrimination here, much like at the town’s famous carnival… there must be something in the water.

After a small battle to put on the wetsuit, we make our way to the seamlessly never-ending beach — on the border of Malo-les-Bains and Leffrinckoucke — that served as the setting for Christopher Nolan’s film Dunkirk. The sea air is crisp, the wind gentle and the water a mild 15°C: ideal conditions for a baptism of fire! And so off we set to Belgium, wading through the Channel. The water comes up to our chest as we advance through the sea with the help of a paddle (or not). You can also run, walk backwards, do the conga… whatever takes your fancy!

“It’s a complete sport that works the muscles, heart and lungs” explains Jean-Paul, the president and founder of Opale Longe-Côte. “In the water, each movement requires 5 times more energy than on land. And in winter, the cold water helps blood circulation and massages the body to help eliminate cellulite!”

Wellbeing in the great outdoors

It gets even more invigorating as we cross through the waves: jumping, dunking our heads and breathing in the rich supply of negative ions that are essential for our metabolism (especially iodine). What’s especially funny is setting a bearing on the beach when going against the tide and realising that despite your best efforts and expending 500 kcal/h, you haven’t really gotten anywhere!

After exercising for over an hour, we end up at the Leffrinckoucke blockhouse where Jean-Paul checks everyone over and gives some advice. As he does so, the more tired float on their backs to give their muscles a rest. And then it’s time to do a U-turn. It’s much easier in this direction, which is a saving grace as mild fatigue starts to embrace our body and our joints become more flexible. “The goal is really learning how to relax and become one with the sea,” says Jean-Paul. “You must use floating to your advantage, make the most of the buoyant force!”

Back at our starting point, we head to the dressing room to take a well-earned shower and get changed. The whole group is singing — sea wading puts a smile on everyone’s face!

Local's tip

Laurence BailleulLaurence Bailleul
©Laurence Bailleul
My top tip? Head to Dunkirk’s belfry for the best views around


58 metres off the ground, this 360° view is really impressive, and enlightening too in that it helps you to get your bearings over the town, harbour and beach ‒ each with its own distinct vibe. And on Saturday afternoons there’s a bonus: you might be lucky enough to encounter the bell ringer who stirs the old church tower’s 50 bells into action creating a truly unique recital.

Laurence Bailleul, expert on what to see and do in and around Dunkirk

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