Vancouver Polar Bear Swim to return for 2023 after multi-year pandemic hiatus

Participants take to the frigid waters of English Bay during the 93rd annual Polar Bear Swim in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday January 1, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

For the first time in three years, Vancouverites of questionable sanity will gather at English Bay for a frigid dip in the ocean on New Year’s Day, as the organized Polar Bear Swim returns from a multi-year pandemic hiatus.

The event had been slated to return to its in-person format last year, but was switched to a “digital dip” at the last minute amid surging COVID-19 case numbers driven by the Omicron variant.

“It feels like it’s a new beginning,” Vancouver Park Board supervisor of aquatics Tony Syskakis told Global News.

“It’s a really nice way to start 2023. it’s been a tough year, and I think a fresh start is going to be a beautiful thing.”

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Click to play video: '‘Stay frosty Vancouver!’: Brave souls take icy plunge to celebrate New Year'
‘Stay frosty Vancouver!’: Brave souls take icy plunge to celebrate New Year

Vancouver’s last in-person Polar Bear Swim, in 2020, was the 100th anniversary of the ritual known for brave souls and wacky costumes.

To mark the return of the in-person event, Syskakis said organizers will be bringing back some of the celebration-style entertainment they rolled out for the centennial — including food trucks and a DJ.

Indoor spaces will be available for people to change and warming tents will be available, but the park board recommends people arrive “swim ready.”

The event runs from noon to 4 p.m., with the program starting at 2 p.m. and the “official swim” at 2:30 p.m.

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