There is an un­spo­ken agree­ment around town that you’re not truly a Van­cou­verite un­til you’ve dunked your full body—and yes, your head as well—in the icy wa­ters of English Bay on New Year’s Day. From po­lar vir­gins to cold-as-ice pros, more than 1,500 peopl

Vancouver Magazine - - Contents - Jenni Bayn­ham as told to Evaan Kheraj photos by

Freez­ing our buns o­ at the Po­lar Bear Swim.

1. Tom Hol­lett has been a life­guard in Van­cou­ver for more than 50 years, so he’s seen more than a few Po­lar Bear Swims in his day. “It can be quite dangerous, be­cause with so many peo­ple run­ning in one spot, you have to be care­ful no one gets stam­peded in the shal­low wa­ter,” says Hol­lett. “Some­times peo­ple’s bod­ies even seize up and we have to send the boat out to get them.” 2. “This is my 27th year do­ing the swim,” laughs Paul Gal­lant (centre). “My tip is to get a lit­tle mooshed the night be­fore—it takes the edge off.” 3. Miriam Soet was the only fe­male mem­ber of the Po­lar Bear Vet­er­ans Club present at last year’s swim, and she’s earned her spot, with 20 badges to

her name. “I know now to bring warm clothes to change into straight af­ter you get out of the wa­ter,” shares Soet. “That’s key to stop­ping the shiv­er­ing.” 4. “It’s my first time, but it’s his fourth,” says Pri­tisha Ku­mar (left). “It’s a weird thing to do, but we came down just to re­fresh be­fore the new year kicks in.” 5. “I built this Dalek cos­tume from over a hun­dred re­cy­cled cof­fee bags,” ex­plains Dave Di­carlo. “Why? Be­cause it’s fun to have a lit­tle fun.”

6. “I’ve worn this same out­fit since 1985,” ex­plains Jim Bax­ter.“But my daugh­ter, Re­becca, has only been com­ing with me for the past four years. One year, I stayed in the wa­ter for 45 min­utes, which was tough, but it’s

the wind when you stand up that re­ally gets you—that’s when it gets bad.” 7. “My first Po­lar Bear Swim started as a drunken bet 35 years ago, and I haven’t missed a year since,” says Terry Saik. “And yes, I won the bet. This year does feel like a par­tic­u­larly cold one, though, and I should know!”

8. The founder of the Po­lar Bear Vet­er­ans Club (you need more than 20 of­fi­cial badges to join the gang), Brent Ham­mond (centre, dressed in blue) has come pre­pared with a chang­ing tent and a cake for those adorned with enough sil­ver­ware to meet the re­quire­ments. “I lived in Vic­to­ria for eight years and still caught the ferry over ev­ery year to make the swim,” says Ham­mond. “Dur­ing the big Y2K scare I stayed up un­til 2 a.m. back­ing up my servers and still man­aged to catch the morn­ing ferry over in time for the dip.”

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