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Vancouver Polar Bear Swim returns to English Bay – CBC.ca

British Columbia·New

A venerable New Year’s Day tradition returned to Vancouver English Bay for the first time in three years. 

This year’s event marked the first in-person Polar Bear Swim event at English Bay since 2020

CBC News

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People react as they run out of the water after plunging into English Bay during the Polar Bear Swim, in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

A venerable New Year’s Day tradition returned to Vancouver for the first time in three years. 

Swimmers braved the icy cold waters of English Bay on Sunday to take part in the Polar Bear Swim, an event that dates back more than a century. 

The event last took place on Jan. 1, 2020, prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 7,000 people took part in the 2020 swim, which marked the 100th anniversary of the event.

The last two editions of the swim were replaced by a “digital dip” with participants dunking themselves into a bathtub or pool filled with cold water (at least 7 C) and sharing a photo or video online.

The tradition was started in 1920 by Peter Pantages, who had recently immigrated from Greece.

Pantages, who owned the Peter Pan Cafe on Granville Street and died in 1971, used to swim at least once a day in honour of his home island of Andros in Greece, according to his granddaughter Lisa.

Lisa Pantages, who is the president of the Polar Bear Swim Club, says over the years people have turned up at the event with flamboyant costumes and created their own family traditions.

“I think people just use it as a fun way to start the new year,” she told CBC earlier in the week. 

A woman reacts as she runs out of the water after plunging into English Bay during the Polar Bear Swim, in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023. This year's event was the first since 2020 after the past two years were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the City of Vancouver the initial swim was in 1920 when approximately 10 swimmers participated.

This year’s event was the first since 2020 after the past two years were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

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According to the City of Vancouver, the initial swim was in 1920 when approximately 10 swimmers participated. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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The tradition was started in 1920 by Peter Pantages, who had recently immigrated from Greece. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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A person dressed as a clown and others walk back onto the beach after plunging into English Bay during the Polar Bear Swim, in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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A person dressed as Elvis Presley waits with others to participate in the Polar Bear Swim, in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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Pantages’s granddaughter Lisa says over the years, people have turned up at the event with flamboyant costumes. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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Zhidong Yu, centre, 90, waits to participate in the Polar Bear Swim, in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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Zhidong Yu, centre, 90, waits to participate in the Polar Bear Swim, in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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People plunge into English Bay during the Polar Bear Swim, in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

— With files from Priya Bhat and The Canadian Press