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January 1, 2016 at 8:30 AM

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The Polar Bear Swim: New Year’s Day at English Bay

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CVA 371-836 - The Polar Bear Club about to go for a swim on New Years Day - 1939

The Polar Bear Club about to go for a swim on New Years Day, 1939. (CoV Archives

Curglaff: the shock felt in bathing when one first plunges into cold water.

(This public space ‘word of the day’ comes courtesy of John Jamiesons’s Etymological Scottish Dictionary, 1808. As reported in Jeffrey Kacirk’s Forgotten English.)

Happy New Year everyone! Looking to get things started with a splash of excitement? Why not start 2016 with one of Vancouver’s most bracing public space events.

The 95th annual Polar Bear swim takes place at English Bay today, January 1st. Registration (if you want to get your name on the official docket) opens at 12:30, and the event itself takes place at 2:30. Last year more than two thousand folks signed up for a chilly, collegial dunk in the Pacific Ocean.

For those that want more than just a quick plunge, there’s the Peter Pantages Memorial 100-Yard Swim Race – named for the fellow that started the Vancouver tradition in 1920. The first three first three swimmers to complete the race and reach the marker buoy will receive trophies.

(Pantages, incidentally, is pictured in the archival photograph above – though we’re not quite sure which of the swimmers he is.)

If you’re thinking of participating, the Park Board offers the following tips for participants:

  • Bring supplies to stay warm – a towel, blanket, change of clothes, and warm outerwear
  • Do not swim if you have a health condition (e.g. heart concerns)
  • Know your limits in the cold water.
  • Avoid diving into the water.
  • Children must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Keep your dogs at home.

For more information, photos and details on last year’s price recipients, check out the Park Board website. You can also download the registration form here.

This story is republished, with modifications. It first ran on January 1, 2014.

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