Now, after a very full first work week of the new year, it’s time to show you how 2,310 of us rang in 2015 in Vancouver … with an estimated 15,000 people watching us shiver. I’ve posted a slight variation of this on Exceptional EA, so not to worry if this is seeming vaguely familiar.
We crazy Canucks and more than a few visitors from other countries rang in the new year with yet another Polar Bear swim, the 95th such annual event for Vancouverites. We were clearly too relaxed in our approach this year to popping over the bridge and snagging a parking space. January 1st was a cold but breathtakingly beautiful day, and so the crowds up on the beach and roadside above English Bay were massive. As a result, we had perhaps two minutes to spare between registration and the signal to race in to the waters.
Clearly not the place to be if you don’t like crowds, English Bay on New Year’s Day is home to an eclectic bunch. Fellow celebrants ranged from the sombrero-wearing stretcher surrounded by the sensibly bundled, to the wig-wearing Cher lookalikes and other fashionistas mixed in with baristas, bunnies and Santa.
We tried the costume approach on our first Polar Bear swim, wearing New Year’s Eve-style attire (and, to our surprise, soon heard that a photo of us emerging from the chill had been published in an eastern newspaper) but, in the interest of warming up as quickly as possible after racing out of the water, we’ve subsequently stuck to bathing suits.
The great thing about Vancouver’s Polar Bear Swim, now in its 95th year, is the range of people who take the plunge. You’ll see families, couples, friends and solo dippers all converging on this beautiful beach for the sheer fun of it – and then you have the more sensible people watching from above the beach and from the comfort of their boats. There’s no charge for registration, and those who present themselves, dripping wet from the waters, are rewarded with badges we pin on with pride – and somewhat shaky fingers! Dippers who bring food bank donations to the Cactus Club on the beach are provided the comfort of steaming hot chocolate or coffee.
Vancouverites aren’t the only Canadians who mark the new year with a polar bear swim; have a look at fellow blogger Sue Slaight’s site to see how she and others in Calgary took an even chiller dip. If you’d like to get an up close feel for Vancouver’s Polar Bear swim, there are a number of YouTube posts such as this one, where the actual run for the water starts at about the four-minute mark.
However you chose to mark the outset of 2015, here’s hoping you make a great year of it!