For roughly the past ten years I have been making a point of going for a swim on New Year ’s Day. I am not sure really what started it all, I think it might have been oversleeping one New Year’s day and missing out on meeting some friends at the beach for a great party, but it has come to be something that I look forward to every year.
It seems most northern cultures celebrate the New Year in the same way; by taking a dip in a body of water. Here in Vancouver we have it lucky, as most times the temperature is around zero degrees. If I ever feel like a pussy I only need to picture the people in Edmonton or Moscow jumping into a hole cut out of the ice and I feel that much warmer.
I think that one of the best things about the day is the atmosphere of the people around. New Year ’s Eve is always full of handshakes, hugs and celebration so to continue it into the next day feel good. But instead of tuxedos everyone puts on a fun costume and hits the beach. Coffee and whiskey are passed around, songs are sung and at the sound of a horn everyone yells and hits the water. Last year there was 2,500 people and this year felt just as busy. That many people yelling and running into the water will give any timid people the courage race out with a smile on their face.
I think that one of the most unique parts of the whole day is meeting all sorts of people. At the bus stop I met a group of elder women who were between 60 and 80 years old. One of the women had been doing the swim for almost 60 years! They were all wearing New Year’s tiaras and top hats and crazy sunglasses and were getting each other all excited for the swim.
For some reason there were a massive amount of Brazilian people this year. There were so many that the area of the beach I was at was like something out of carnival in Rio. Like most years, there are almost as many accents as there are Canadians. The Russians and Scandinavians are a huge presence as are the Poles and Germans. This year I noticed more Japanese, Chinese and Koreans as well. A large group of painted Japanese were being especially rowdy and having a good time getting everyone around them fired up for the swim.
It is a day that, to paraphrase an elder man who had been doing this for 30 years, can only get better when you spend the first day freezing cold and half naked with your balls shrivelled into your stomach.