Nova Scotia

Thousands brave icy waters to start 2017 with bragging rights

East Coasters, like those in the Halifax suburb of Herring Cove and others in Charlottetown, were the first of thousands across the country to ring in the new year by dipping into Canada's frigid waters today.

'I think this is definitely the coldest I've ever been,' cities across Canada hold polar bear dips

A polar dipper in Charlottetown swims amidst ice chunks pushed against the shore by high winds. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

An octogenarian, with the words "Happy 2017" scrawled across his body in permanent marker, took the inaugural leap into the Atlantic Ocean in one of the first polar bear swims of the year.

Eighty-two-year-old Arnie Ross, clad in coral swim trunks, was the first of more than 250 people to jump off the wharf in Herring Cove, N.S., on Sunday.

Organizers said it was the best turn-out since the first polar bear swim in Herring Cove in 1994.

21st year taking part

Ross has been there almost since the beginning — it was his 21st year participating in the New Year's Day tradition, and he doesn't plan on quitting anytime soon.

"My own belief is a lot of people come to see me to see if I'm going to die this year when I hit the water," Ross said. "I'm not going to because I plan to live to over age 100."

Thousands of people across the country started 2017 in a very chilly way. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

East Coasters, like those in the Halifax suburb of Herring Cove and others in Charlottetown, were the first of thousands across the country to ring in the new year by dipping into Canada's frigid waters today.

Polar bear dips across country

In Toronto, hundreds more ran into Lake Ontario: some in costume, others in bathing suits.

"I think this is definitely the coldest I've ever been," said Cait Caulfield, who bundled herself in a reflective emergency blanket after her dip in the lake.

But the adrenaline rush was worth it, she said. She's planning on coming back next year, and she'll bring friends.

Canadian tradition

About 40 kilometres down the road, in suburban Oakville, Ont., 700 people ran into the lake at another event. They had been told to wear red and white to mark Canada's sesquicentennial year, and money raised from donations went to charity.

Vancouverites were to take part in this year's edition of the oldest and largest "Polar Bear Club" in Canada later Sunday. Last year there were more than 2,000 participants.

Revellers brave pack ice as they participate in the annual New Year's polar bear dip in Charlottetown harbour on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

now