B.C. swimmers brave cold waters for annual polar bear dip

Swimmers from across the province took to the waters for the annual cold-water ritual — although some were colder than others.

Hundreds of swimmers around the province took part in the annual New Year's Day tradition

Swimmers enjoy a cool dip into the waters of English Bay, Vancouver, during the annual Polar Bear Swim. (CBC)

Wearing bathing suits and costumes, swimmers across the province delightedly plunged into icy waters in what's become an annual New Year's Day tradition.

The geographic location of the specific polar dip altered the stakes considerably.

In Vancouver, hundreds took part in the annual polar bear swim in English Bay. According to the City of Vancouver, the event is one of the oldest and largest in the country with the first one taking place in 1920.

Luckily for the swimmers, the weather Monday was sunny and clear. The water was a cool 6 C, which one participant described as "sensationally cold."

A costumed reveller gets ready to swim into the waters of Vancouver's English Bay for the annual Polar Bear Swim. (David Horemans/CBC)

On Vancouver Island, more than 200 people stripped down to take the plunge in Parksville in crisp 4 C conditions.

In Willows Beach in Oak Bay, martial arts trainees from across the Greater Victoria region charged into the ocean for a different kind of plunge.

Karate teacher Greg Turnball described a practice called kengeiko, which is a type of winter training.

"It's a great way to bring in the new year, and it involves the challenge of the cold as it were. So, the cold is your obstacle and you're going to overcome it. If you can train on a day like this, any cold day's a piece of cake," Turnball said.

Martial arts trainees from across Greater Victoria practice their training in the cold waters of Oak Bay. (CHEK News)

North in Prince George, the circumstances were a little different.

Dave Horton, the program director of Ness Lake Bible Camp, holds a polar bear dip to raise funds for the campers.

But before swimmers could even get into the water, blocks of ice had to be chopped out of Ness Lake.

"It was like 14 inches," Horton said. "There were 8 inches of crystal clear beautiful ice and then the snow pack and stuff like that."

Horton said the temperature in Prince George was between –15 C and –10 C. He said this was the 17th annual event, and they had still held the event when temperatures dipped below –25 C.

"We've got a lot of safety built into the event. The volunteer fire department is there. We've got heated buildings and medical staff, a defibrillator," he said.

Dave Norton takes a dunk into the frigid water with his 8-year-old daughter. 0:25

Horton took a dip himself, entering the water with his eight-year-old daughter.

"I've never seen her show so much regret so quickly," he said.

"She told me to take her in no matter what, but she came out of the water crying ...She calmed down pretty fast once we got her toweled off. She was glad she did it. I look like the world's worst father."

The event raised $7,000 for the camp.

With files from CHEK