Vancouver's Polar Bear swim takes a digital dive into 2021

·2 min read

Although Vancouver's Polar Bear Swim technically went virtual this year, a few brave souls kept with tradition and jumped into the icy cold ocean water at English Bay on New Year's Day.

The annual event usually draws thousands, but due to COVID-19, participants were asked to register and take a "digital dip" in cold water at home to claim a commemorative certificate.

A group of four men, originally from Ireland, were among a small crowd of people who decided to go for a less watered-down experience despite provincial health officials asking people not to gather in groups beyond their immediate households.

Enzo Zanatta/CBC
Enzo Zanatta/CBC

"I thought I'd go for a wee dip anyway and go for a few beers and start the new year well," said one of the men who only identified himself as Damian.

"It's the perfect hangover cure. That and a caesar which is coming up next."

He along with his friends said they're looking forward to seeing family and enjoying a holiday in 2021.

Enzo Zanatta/CBC
Enzo Zanatta/CBC

The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim is in its 101st year. It was founded by Peter Pantages in 1920 with a small group of swimmers in English Bay on New Year's Day.

Last year, more than 7,000 swimmers registered for the event.

Pranay Bedidhe and Keiko Shimoda huddled in towels in the rain after their icy swim on Friday.

The temperature hovered around 8C Friday afternoon — warm, compared to the water, Bedidhe said.

"It's actually freezing ... but we did it," Bedidhe said.

Enzo Zanatta/CBC
Enzo Zanatta/CBC

This was the second time they've kicked off a new year with an icy dip, they said.

"It's fun. It's like a tradition, so you have to do it," Shimoda said.

Enzo Zanatta/CBC
Enzo Zanatta/CBC

Antoine Dumont said he wanted to take an ocean dip for a "fresh start" to 2021.

Wrapped in a white towel, he said he has high hopes for the coming year.

"Health for everybody, happiness, love," he said.