Sunday, January 1, 2017

Polar bears

I did this once, and have the photo to prove it, but jumping into English Bay on Jan. 1 is an experience I don't want to repeat. John often photographed the Polar Bear Swim while he worked for the Province newspaper, and since his retirement, often finds his way down to the beach on New Year's Day. All today's photos are his.
I like this photo because I think it's how I looked as I got out of the water as fast as I could.

People even take their smartphones into the water with them now.

The idea of deliberately jumping into a body of cold water in the dead of winter was novel to me when I arrived in Vancouver from Edmonton in 1973. In Alberta, the whole point of winter was to survive in as warm a state as possible. But in Vancouver, people have been flinging themselves into English Bay on New Year's Day ever since 1920, so nobody here thought it was strange.

As newspaper people, John and I were usually involved in Vancouver's Polar Bear Swim in some capacity -- either reporting on or photographing it ourselves, or later, editing others' stories and photos. Once I even joined the hordes and jumped in myself on Jan. 1 -- partly to find out why anyone would do such a thing and partly to write about it.

Once was enough, and since my retirement, I've mainly avoided the event. But John, always intrigued by picture possibilities, usually wanders down to the water on Jan. 1 -- whether we're here or on Saltspring -- to photograph the start-of-year craziness. Above and below are some photographs he took this year. Me, I was reading on the couch at home.

Lifeguards patrol the swim in boats to make sure nobody stays out too long or gets into trouble. 

Fun or agony? It's sometimes hard to tell from the expressions on people's faces.

Most of these people are headed in one direction -- out!

A couple support each other as they try to make their way to shore.

Santa's reindeer, complete with names and antlers, make up a herd of swimmers. 

A chilly photo call on the beach, which still has snow on it.
A lifeguard watches over  a red-nosed swimmer who looks like he's taking a selfie.

1 comment:

  1. We forgot this was happening yesterday and didn't get out walking until around 4pm. It seemed rather cold and icy before that. All the sidewalks were cleared. We did see a few stragglers. Many, many years ago it appealed to me but I never got round to doing it. I'm quite sure once would be enough for me too!