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At the New Year's Day Polar Bear Swim, Even the Crowd Got Drenched

90th Annual Polar Bear Swim

What’s on your bucket list this year?

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. Today 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 and last but not least, Tiger Woods.

Yes, that’s right. Tiger Woods appeared with his sketched-on black eye and stitches while his group consisted of a caddy, with an oversized umbrella  to shield the rain from Tiger himself and four supporters with white t-shirts with numbers on the back.

One printed t-shirt read:  "I’m Tiger’s #19th hoe." On the front it read, "I slept with Tiger Woods."

Laughs and screams could be heard all the way to mid-Denman. 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.”

A man in his wetsuit was attending because of his buddies. “I’m doing it as a bet, and it’s my first time, and they said that if you want to get over your hangover, just get in the water. I made a bet to just go on in and come back out quickly. But this bet is for me to stay in and swim a bit. How far in I go is another story. I’m in my wetsuit so I should be okay and I thought it would be appropriate. Plus, I get a drink after if I fulfill the bet.”

Two sisters from Sydney, Australia said it was their polar bear first. “This is to start a new year with something different where we’d normally swim in Sydney on New Year’s Day in about 35-38 degrees. In Sydney it’s a different kind of swim.”

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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