Those who braved the near 6-degree chilly ocean water to celebrate this annual start of the year tradition did so with smiles and insidious pressure from the masses. New Year's Day at 2:30 p.m., children, adults of all ages in their bathing suits jumped up and down to keep warm. They had come for the 90th Annual Polar Bear Swim.
Roughly 100 swimmers crowded the English Bay banks while not-so-daring onlookers flooded in to watch in areas boxed off below by wooden fences and police guards.
1:30 was not too early to catch some polar bears wandering around the beach, walking around and taking a glimpse at other costumes. From leprechauns to a full body length wetsuit with a Santa hat, to a family of Vikings including their young son.
Some groups stayed together to keep warm, while others had a little something else up their sleeve. When passing by, it was very much like a dose of 1 keg of beer. Either, leftovers from New Year’s Eve or the just recent pump of adrenaline to keep the swimmers psyched.
At the end of it all, it was hard to tell the swimmers from the onlookers, because everyone was wet. Some wore shorts in anticipation of getting drenched. Everyone was soaked to the bone, but the wet weather didn’t dampen any spirits. If anything, it fueled the festival's high spirits.
The reasons for joining varied.
Erin from Abbotsford said, “I’ve always wanted to do the polar bear swim. This is my first one. It's one of those things I want to do before I die. What’s special about this is that this is a year for me to remember and to kick start the beginning of it all. This is a great way to say I’m going to remember 2010. It’s 2010 and every other year has been the same and you can’t remember one year from another.”
Some joined for the craze of it all, others wanted to try something new, and the more professional Polar Bear swimmers knew to keep their clothes on before the start of the swim.
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