British Columbia

95th annual Vancouver Polar Bear Swim draws thousands

Thousands turned out to English Bay, to see and take part in the 95th annual Polar Bear Swim, Vancouver's venerable, if slightly crazy, New Year's tradition of jumping into heart-stoppingly freezing water.

Swimmers, many in costume, celebrate annual tradition with that mad dash in and out of freezing water

The secret to Polar Bear swimming is to leave, while you still can. (CBC)

Thousands turned out to English Bay, to see and take part in the 95th annual Polar Bear Swim, Vancouver's venerable, if slightly crazy, New Year's Day tradition of jumping into heart-stoppingly freezing water.

...and they're off! The mad dash into the frigid water of English Bay has been an annual Vancouver tradition for the last 95 years. (CBC)

And that's just what they did at 2:30 p.m. PT, Thursday, many dressed in outlandish attire ranging from homemade reindeer to penguins, gorillas, carrot heads or costumes simply unnameable that have become a trademark of the event.

This year the water temperature was a balmy 3 C under clear blue skies.

Many of those taking the plunge, have been doing it for decades.

I'm getting a little old for this," said one swimmer who emerged from the water to put on a sweater full of Polar Bear swim buttons."I've done it 24 times. My buddy's done it 25, so he makes me keep coming."

There's nothing that says New Year's like antlers. Santa's helpers on a well-deserved day off following their refreshing dip into English Bay. (CBC)

The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim is the largest and oldest in the world. Founded by Peter Pantages in 1920, the swim set a new record in 2014 of 2,550 official registrations.

Official numbers are not in yet, but more than 2,000 swimmers were expected again this year.

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