January 1st 2020 was a special morning for Vancouver along the English Bay waterfront. After a week of heavy rain the sun magically reappeared with perfect timing for the 100 year anniversary of the Polar Bear Swim. Originally organized in 1920 by Peter Pantages, along with 10 fellow swimmers, the annual event has continued ever since with an ever increasing number of swimmers braving the cold water and an even greater number showing up to watch and cheer them on. In 2014 a record 2,550 swimmers registered for the swim but in 2020 that record was shattered by the 6,500 who officially registered and the more than 45,000 spectators who came to watch.
Prepping in some cases for hours in advance, the crowd patiently formed a line all along English Bay beach sipping warming beverages and waiting until the last possible moment to remove their clothing There were plenty of costumes, entertainers, and even a live band to keep everyone in a festive mood.
At precisely 2:30 PM the horn signaled the start of the event and then as fast as it started it ended with everyone running screaming into the ocean (this year a balmy 7 degrees celsius) and then came running right back out to pose for the obligatory photo. A few hardy souls tried to pretend they were as tough as polar bears and more than a few went back for a second or third dip but generally the swim or rather plunge lasted less than a couple of minutes.