New Year’s Dip

My favourite thing to do on New Year’s Day is brave the downtown crowds for Vancouver’s annual Polar Bear Swim. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually get wet. Perish the thought. I just like to watch. Me and about 15,000 other rubberneckers.

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It was particularly chilly for this year’s swim — around 3 degrees down by the water. The sun was shining, though, and it feels cozy when you’re packed in among the crowd on the beach. Plus, seeing people in bikinis and swimming trunks dunk themselves in the frigid waters of English Bay makes you feel toasty by comparison.

The joyous energy of the Polar Bear Swim is what makes it such an excellent New Year’s Day tradition. The swimmers’ exuberance is infectious, the positive energy seems to shimmer in the air over the crowd. And the costumes are fun, too. The “lingerie ladies” are my favourite. I caught them on camera a couple of years ago, but haven’t managed more than a glimpse of them since.

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“I don’t get it,” said my sister as we watched hordes of swimmers hooting and shrieking in the water and shivering, blue-lipped on the beach afterwards. “I don’t understand what would possess anyone to do such a thing.”

I’d never do it, but I get it. The Polar Bear Swim gives the dippers a fresh start to the year. It’s like a ritual cleansing, a symbolic hitting of the reset button. It makes for a dramatic beginning to the next chapter. Here we go, it says. A brand new year. This is going to be a good one. See how fearless and intrepid I am?

It’s an appealing idea. Too bad I have such a profound loathing of cold water.

The rest of my New Year’s Day involved an inspiring interview, a terrible movie, a nice dinner, and a parking ticket.

If the first day of 2015 is in any way representative of the year to come, it’s going to be a roller coaster ride.

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