Cold water dips: keeping community alive

It's January 1st, a day when many of us in Vancouver would typically be heading to the ocean for the annual polar bear dip (the idea being that you jump into the freezing ocean with friends and family to start the year off, a tradition which is said to date back to 1920). This year, the advice is to steer clear of crowds and replace the ocean with a bucket of ice cold water in the safety of your backyard.

Do you brave the cold once a year for the polar bear dip? Are you a true convert to the benefits of cold water and happily bound down to the sea on a daily basis? Are you a happy observer who couldn’t think of anything worse than willingly entering freezing cold water and then spending 15 minutes trying to get changed without showing passers by more than they bargained for? Or, maybe you are intrigued about the cold water swimming malarkey but not yet wholly convinced.

Whichever category you find yourself in, we’ve put together some information on the benefits of cold water swimming in Vancouver, and included some resources which may open your eyes to the world of cold water.

Community amid COVID: during such a tough time, when activities with groups are no longer safe, a short dip or a longer swim in the ocean or a local body of cold water is an easy way to experience nature or fit in some exercise. It’s also a great way to be a part of a growing community, which is truly built of kind and engaging people sharing tips, safety advice, encouragement and a good dose of things to make you smile. Check out Vancouver Open Water Swimmers Forum on Facebook to glimpse into the Vancouver community.

The health benefits: There are many benefits to spending time in very cold water, and many people have spoken so eloquently about these benefits, so let us direct you to some of our favourite articles that articulate these benefits so well:

- Red Bull gives us the lowdown on 10 health benefits of swimming in cold water:

- Sarah Miller gives her own personal account in a New York Times piece, Swimming in Very Cold Water Keeps Me Sane:

Motivation: If you, like many of us amid these tough times, are finding it hard to motivate yourself to be active (especially during the cold and dark winter months), there are plenty of inspirational short films about others who are braving the cold water for their own reasons.

Check out local Canadian marathon swimmer Jessi Harewicz as she swims without a wetsuit in the cold ocean water off the coast of Vancouver as she trains to complete the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming in a short 3 minute video:

Another inspiring story comes in the form of Body of Water, a new 40 minute documentary film by co-directors Scott M Salt and Benjamin Paul following ice swimmer Gilly McArthur. Trailer:

Maybe you are still happy to watch from the warms of dry land, or maybe you are inspired to take the plunge. Get in touch with us and share your thoughts, experiences or advice.