2014: the Year of New Experiences #1 Polar Bear Swim in Vancouver

It’s easy to make new year resolutions – and so much easier to break them, so this year I’ve decided to skip the usual list and go with just one resolution that should be easy to keep: Do More New Things. I want to dive into brand-new Canadian experiences every month this year and I decided to kick off by joining the Polar Bear Club on Vancouver’s English Bay for an icy January 1st dip.

Walking down to English Bay with my friend Felice, who I’d shamelessly whined at until she came too, I can’t pretend my heart wasn’t hammering – what if it was too cold? What if I wanted to back out? But once we arrived excitement took over; this was the 94th year of the dip and the biggest in its history with some 2,500 people jumping in. Jostling for space amongst the guys dressed as disgraced Toronto mayor, Rob Ford, and a guy dressed as a rasher of bacon, I decided to just try and enjoy it. We jumped the wooden fence to the beach and stripped off to our swimming costumes. The sand was wet and cold, within a few minutes my feet were numb. And then it began -there was no formal bell or whistle, no ‘ready, steady, go!’ but as we saw everyone race forward we grabbed hands and made for the waves.

polarbear swim

I didn’t feel the water at first, not until it hit mid-thigh, I ducked, shoulders-down and then it hit me – I gasped at the icy cold; I genuinely felt like I was having a heart attack. For a few seconds I couldn’t breath – the water was shockingly, painfully cold, I jumped back up, mouthing frantically then shrieked! Then the adrenaline flooded through me, man!  This was great, I raced back out of the water and joined my friends – all of us wild-eyed and beaming – we’d done it!

We did it!

We did it!

I was in the water for maybe 30 seconds at the most but it’s half a minute I’ll always remember and it feels like it was 30 crucial seconds that will shape the rest of the year. We raced back to my apartment building and hopped in the hot tub to thaw out. Over the next half hour, more frozen polar bear veterans joined us; I loved the feeling of camaraderie, of a moment of craziness shared and the start of something adventurous beginning.

Here’s a great video from Tristan Harvey which shows what happened:

Here’s to a new year of Canadian experiences and fantastic first times…

Tags: , ,

3 comments

  1. John Pentland

    What once was a new experience for me in 1978 has turned into an annual tradition, now involving dressing as Santa along with a herd of reindeer. 2014 marked my 35th year as Santa Claus at English Bay on January 1st, and I look forward to meeting the Pantages family every year for a few brief moments in the water. You never know what new experience is going to become a tradition, or a big part of your life. I applaud your resolution to do new things!

    • John, thank you. I’m already planning next year’s dip – so, who knows! I saw you and your reindeer, I’m sure – you had candy canes and came down the steps at Cactus Club? I was there, dressed as a cat! You guys cheered us up and gave us courage to hop that fence.

      • john Pentland

        …yes that was our group. Feel free to to cross the line and go from feline to reindeer next year. Follow us on facebook …. polardeerclub

Leave a comment

*

Featuring WPMU Bloglist Widget by YD WordPress Developer