Chilly start to 2015 for brave Polar Bear swimmers in Fort Langley

“Looks like a great day for a dip!” bellowed Bryan McIntosh as he and his family arrived at the Brae Island campground’s parking lot at 8:45 in the morning on New Year’s Day.

McIntosh, his nine-year-old son Justin, and Justin’s friend Jack Kortus, also nine, were among the roughly dozen people who plunged into the Fraser River at 9 a.m. sharp on Jan. 1, welcoming the new year by taking part in the second annual Polar Bear Swim in Fort Langley.

A thin coating of ice hugged where the frigid water touches the sandy shoreline of Brae Island Beach on the north side of the Bedford Channel, but that didn’t scare off the swimmers from sprinting into the river on the first freezing cold morning of 2015.

The first three swimmers to reach the dock on the opposite side of the beach were to be crowned Fraser Valley polar bear champions, but no one was willing to take up that challenge, especially with the temperature at start time sitting at -4ºC.

Instead, after a countdown from 10, the group hop-stepped, en masse, into the frigid Fraser and then rambled out of the water just as quickly. Only two swimmers stayed in the water for more than a few seconds.

There was no charity aspect to the swim, other than it being a fun community event.

McIntosh said he took part because his wife Rachel challenges him to do “silly things all the time.”

This was McIntosh’s first polar bear swim in Fort Langley. He’s taken part in two similar events in White Rock.

Before the swim, McIntosh vowed to go “all the way in.”

“I’m just going to go for a quick dive, make sure that my heart doesn’t completely stop, break the ice, and go through it,” McIntosh said. “If the heart’s still ticking, then we know we’re going to have a good 2015.”

Joining McIntosh in the water was Josh Harder.

“I’m running in as fast as I can, as deep as I can and then splash around and run back out,” Harder said, before the swim.

As he dried off after his quick dip, Sam Lacasse exclaimed, “That was a gooder! Way colder than White Rock.”

McIntosh meanwhile, ran back into the water after his initial plunge and dove back in before joining the rest of the participants on shore.

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