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New Year's Day paddle


Feb 27, 2006
So hardly an epic adventure, but what with weather and pre-Christmas COVID, it's been weeks since I was on the water. Which meant I was delighted to start the New Year off on the right flipper: a paddle with my good friends and fellow instructor/guides, EJ and Tomo.
GOPR2571 Philip NYD 2023.jpg

GOPR2584 NYD 2023 EJ and Tomo.jpg

We did a dog-leg from Jericho Beach over to English Bay, arriving just on time to catch the start of the Polar Bear Swim. This spectacle has always held a morbid fasciation for me. Hundreds of apparently willing participants line up behind a yellow rope, many still hungover or still impaired from the night before. Some Svengali with a microphone works them up like the MC at one of those firewalking workshops that were so fashionable in the 90s. At the appointed time, the rope is dropped and the lemmings charge seaward. Typically, the residual alcohol is enough to insulate them from awareness of the cold until they get roughly nipple-deep. At that point, even the reptilian brain realizes, "Holy f***, it's freezing!" And then those in the lead do a 180 and desperately try to wade back to shore. But the oncoming mob washes them relentlessly back into the water. I'm honestly amazed each year that when the crowd finally retreats onto the beach, the shoreline doesn't look like the opening scene from "Saving Private Ryan."
GOPR2593 NYD 2023 Polar Swimmers.jpg
After saluting the bravery, if not the judgement, of the swimmers, we paddled and drifted back to Jericho, arriving just as the setting sun dropped the temperature to "see your breath" cold.