Vancouver Polar Bear Swim returns to English Bay

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For the first time in three years, a venerable New Year’s tradition is back in Vancouver.

Swimmers braved the frozen 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 was last held on 1 January 2020 before 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 bath”, in which the participants immersed in a bath or pool of cold water (minimum 7°C) and shared a photo or video online.

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

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

Lisa Pantages, president of the Polar Bear Swim Club, says over the years people have come out to the event in extravagant costumes and created their own family traditions.

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

This year’s event was the first of 2020 after the previous two years were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck) According to the City of Vancouver, the first swim took place in 1920 when around 10 swimmers participated. (THE CANADIAN PRESS) The tradition was started in 1920 by Peter Pantages, who had recently emigrated from Greece. (THE CANADIAN PRESS) A person dressed as a clown and others walk back to the beach after falling into English Bay during the Polar Bear Swim in Vancouver, BC Sunday January 1, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS )A person dressed as Elvis Presley waits with others to participate in the Polar Bear Swim on Sunday, January 1, 2023 in Vancouver, BC. (THE CANADIAN PRESS) Pantage’s granddaughter, Lisa, says over the years people have appeared at the event in extravagant costumes. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)Zhidong Yu, mid, 90, waits to participate in the Polar Bear Swim in Vancouver, BC, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)Zhidong Yu, mid, 90, waits to participate in the Polar Bear Swim, in Vancouver, BC, Sunday January 1, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS) People descend on English Bay during the Polar Bear Swim in Vancouver, BC, the Sunday January 1, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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