I went back to Bikini Beach for another swim this morning. I nearly didn’t: The beach across from my hotel in English Bay looked inviting. The water was calm, there was almost no wind, and the sun was peeking out from behind the clouds. I saw a swimmer out in the water, casually backstroking, and thought about just jumping in to join them. But then I remembered how fun the group was yesterday and I walked on to Bikini Beach.
It was beautiful. Between the high tide and rough surf yesterday the “beach” was just water and rocks, but today the tiny pebbles and sand were revealed. I was the first to arrive, followed shortly by a nice fellow named Bob. We chatted for a bit as more people trickled in, many familiar faces from yesterday, and they greeted me like I was an old friend (open water swimmers are the nicest people).
The water felt even colder than yesterday (though it was still 8 according to the thermometer) and it was a struggle to get in, but once I did, I felt fantastic, buzzing with the fullness of being alive. I learned that the water was warmer last week, but is cooling down from the melting snow and ice running into the rivers and emptying into the bay. I enjoyed the thought that I was swimming through clear mountain ice melt.
It was another joyful crowd this morning. One swimmer said to me, this is the best part of my day; a sentiment I am very familiar with. He went on to say, only half-jokingly, that they believe their daily cold water swims will ensure they live forever and let me know that Bob, the fellow I was chatting to earlier, was 90-years-old. My awe only deepened when I saw him, clad in nothing but his speedo and cap (no gloves, no booties) slide gracefully into the water without the slightest hesitation. Apparently, he also teaches yoga in the park in the summer.
Someone else told me the history behind the beach’s name: Bikini Beach. Because it’s well-hidden from the main road, Europeans who came to Vancouver after the war, flocked to this beach in order to wear their skimpy swimming costumes away from the disapproving eyes of the Puritanical Vancouver society. This swimmer told me that many of those original swimmers still come here to swim in the summer and since many of them are in their eighties and nineties now, she used to refer to the beach as old folks beach, until she found out the history. She also said it’s the best beach for swimming because it drops off quickly so swimmers can get straight to swimming.
It certainly won me over and I can’t wait to come back (hopefully some day when Bob is teaching yoga).