Polar bear swimmers dashed into and out of the Fraser River at Brae Island at noon on Jan. 1 to mark the new year.

Polar bears take Fraser River plunge

Bright sunshine did not make the water that warm for swimmers.

Several dozen polar bear swimmers dove into the Fraser River from the beach of Brae Island to mark the start of the year at noon on Jan. 1.

The first arrival at the beach was Martin Phillips-Hing.

The Fort Langley resident swam last year and had taken part in polar bear swims as a teenager in Vancouver.

Swimmers gathered just before noon to take the plunge.“I think people overestimate how bad it is,” he said before taking a dip.

That said, he lives in Fort Langley and doesn’t have far to go.

“If I didn’t have a hot shower, I wouldn’t be doing this,” Phillips-Hing said.

Bruce Cairnae was taking his second polar bear swim at the Fort, but has swum in freezing water before when hunting back in Ontario.

“When I went last year it wasn’t that bad,” Cairnae said.

There were quite a few first timers among the crowd.

“Yes, I’m scared,” said Chris Walsh, taking his first ever polar bear swim. “I think I might die.”

He brought towels and a change of clothes, including extra socks to wear afterwards.

Walsh drove out from Surrey, which gave him time to think about whether or not it was a bad idea.

The swimmers gathered at the shore in everything from costumes to Speedos and swimming caps just before noon.

After a countdown they all ran into the water, but many were out just as quickly. A few splashed around for about 30 seconds before retreating to the beach.

“Too cold,” said Walsh. “It wasn’t so bad actually when you got into it, though.”Chris Walsh dried off just after getting out of the river.

“I would say colder [than last year], maybe because it was warmer outside,” said Martin.

“That stuff I said about ‘You don’t feel it when you first go in?’ That’s not true,” he added.

The Brae Island swim began just a few years ago.


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