Week One: Polar Bear Swim – New Year, New Experiences

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New year, new experiences, and I decided to start The New 52 Project off with a bang. Or rather, a splash. This year I took part in a long standing New Year’s Day tradition – The Polar Bear Swim.

I’d toyed with the idea of participating in a Polar Bear Swim for a few years now. In the week leading up to the event I would always psych myself up, telling myself how much fun it would be. Inevitably, once the day actually arrived, I was too lazy, or otherwise worse for wear,  to make this particular dream a reality. This year, with my new project foremost in my mind, I found the impetus I needed. Also I made the mistake of nonchalantly of sharing the details of my swim with various friends, coworkers, and family members as though it was a foregone conclusion, so I couldn’t easily back out without looking like a wuss.

Vancouver’s official Polar Bear Swim takes place Downtown on English Bay. Thousands of people congregate every year to take part; however, not relishing the idea of a long, soggy bus journey, I decided to do a solo swim on a beach closer to home. This meant of course that I would miss out on the Commemorative Polar Bear Swim Club button, but I was never in this for the glory.

That’s not to say I didn’t have spectators. On the contrary, I had a veritable entourage of well wishers. Namely my husband, my in-laws, and my dog.

As we marched purposely across the sand, my gut started to contract with nervous excitement, and possibly a little anxiety. I was already feeling chilly under my many layers, and I wasn’t even wet yet. What if I got in up to my ankles and my legs refused to carry me out any further? Would that still count? Worse, what if they seized up whilst I was further out at sea and unable to touch the bottom? I knew that seals frequented the bay. Would they take kindly to a strange, flailing land mammal in their midst? I decided it was best not to over think it, and started peeling off my clothes, flinging them unceremoniously at my poor mother-in-law for safekeeping. Although, to her credit, she made an excellent coat stand.

Soon I was down to my bikini and yoga pants, which I wore in the vain hope that they would offer some kind of insulation against the cold. At the very least they would shield unsuspecting onlookers from the sight of my pasty, English bottom bouncing towards the water, post-Christmas binge. (You’re welcome, fellow beach-goers). It was time.

DSC_0963With my family counting me down, I faced my foe, the cruel, icy sea.

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Well, not really icy, if I’m honest. I mean it is Vancouver after all. But still, woman vs nature. Grrr!

I shot towards the water like an arrow. If the archer had been a beginner with questionable upper body strength. And possibly vertigo.

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Within seconds I hit the water and… it was actually quite pleasant.

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Waiting for my legs to seize up

Encouraged, I kept wading in until it was deep enough to swim and launched forward into breast stroke, aka the ‘Keep-your-head-dry’ stroke. Try as I might, I couldn’t bring myself to duck my head under the murky water. I blame my highly attuned survival instinct.

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Hair still nice and dry

I was starting to enjoy myself, but it wasn’t very long before my extremities started to feel a little numb, and I suspected that I should probably leave the water before my limbs got too heavy. So, buoyed up by pride and the  sudden realisation that I was really flipping cold, I headed back to shore. I emerged  gracefully from the water, reminiscent, I’m sure, of a Bond girl. Perhaps a young Ursula Andress, or Halle Berry.

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I’ll let you decide

VERDICT: I really enjoyed my New Year’s Day dip in the Pacific. Next year  I may even brave the journey to English Bay to do the official swim. Partly because I think the atmosphere would be amazing, but mainly because I really want that damn commemorative button.

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2 comments

  1. Congrats on starting the year with a bang!!! This is one I don’t think I’d ever try. I just put my feet in the Atlantic in December, and they were numb for over an hour! Not planning on doing that again soon!

    1. Brr!! I definitely wouldn’t have been so fond of my dip with temperatures like the ones on the east coast right now. Thank goodness for Vancouver winters!

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