We are Cold, We Are Numb, We Are Really, Really Dumb

… But Our Toes Have Thawed, and It’s A Tradition I’m Determined to MaintainVancouver Polar Bear Swims 2013-16

Happy 2016, everyone, and here’s hoping you’ve made a great start to your new year.

Ours was on the sunny and chilly side, as we continued to build on our recent tradition of hanging out at the beach on New Year’s Day, along with an eclectic group of another 2,000+ people all prepared to run, jump and splash into the waters of Vancouver’s gorgeous English Bay.

We Are Cold, We Are Numb …

To get a sense of the setting, you’ll see above a couple of pics I took of the West End this past month. Did I mention that the temperature yesterday was 4 Celsius (39.2 F) on land, and 8 Celsius (46.4 F) in the water? That may be why you could find hundreds of us laughingly chanting this refrain, even as the sun shone down on the the crowd.

You don’t have to stay in long; the idea is to get wet and get out.

We were surrounded by people who had no intention of doing anything so crazy as exposing themselves to cold water. There were probably more observers than dippers. Ready to cheer on we loonies, these people remained bundled beachside, above us on the street, and in the comfort of nearby restaurants and condos, where they could enjoy the show. There’s also an abundance of lifeguards, in boats in the water.

Refining Our Strategy

When traffic is light, we’re less than a 10-minute drive to English Bay – and last year we were far too mellow with our approach to timing, since the trick is landing a parking space. Given our almost-late-to-the-party arrival in 2015, we decided to make our way to the West End early this year. With more than two hours to spare, we registered and then perched ourselves on a huge log to enjoy the sunshine, the boats in the harbour, and the growing spectacle on land.

The costumes are half the fun. We dressed up our first year, and then I learned from a colleague the next week that a photo of us emerging from the bay had made it into more than one newspaper. The past three years, we’ve stuck to water wear that can be more quickly removed once you’ve return to soggy sand.

The trick is to stay covered up and warm as long as you can, and then strip down as close to the 2:30 start time as possible. We pile our bags, towels and dry clothing together, mark the spot, and then make the mad dash (which can be a relative term) for the water. I was entering the bay even as a giant grey shark was splashing his way out of the water, and coming straight at me.

What Do you Get Out of This?

Loads of laughs, a couple of strange encounters, and a new pin to add to my growing collection. Oh, and a Fred Flintstone sighting. All this in a gorgeous setting, and – if you bring a donation for the food bank – you can warm up fairly quickly after drying off by making your way to the waterfront Cactus Club restaurant. There, a gracious crew is ready with friendly smiles and tasty hot chocolate in exchange for donations.

A 97-Year Tradition in Vancouver

This year’s dip marked the 97th such annual event for Vancouverites and equally adventurous dippers from around the globe – including one group wearing hats imprinted, “Possie of Aussies”.

There’s camaraderie both before and after the swim. The streets of the West End were a great mishmash of people of all ages as both the shivering and the comfortably dry made their way home (or on to their next adventure), amidst many good wishes for the new year.

However you chose to mark the outset of 2016, here’s hoping you make this year a great one.

3 Comments on “We are Cold, We Are Numb, We Are Really, Really Dumb

  1. Nice pics and some laughs. :). It’s really cold here too although my friends in really cold places would laugh at me saying this!

    • Thanks, Laura; I appreciate it, and happy new year to you. 🙂

      Ahem. Yes, I suspect that friends in truly cold places would think both you and I live in relatively mild climates!

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