Canada

Polar bear dippers start 2010 with icy plunge

A chilly New Year's Day tradition is taking place across Canada as people plunge into icy water during annual polar bear dips.
Participants jump into the Tay River on Friday during the annual polar bear plunge to ring in the new year in Perth, Ont. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

A chilly New Year's Day tradition is taking place across Canada as people plunge into icy water during annual polar bear dips.

Large crowds of eager swimmers were expected to take a dip in Vancouver's English Bay. The tradition started in 1920 when a small number of swimmers jumped into the water on New Year's Day.

In Nova Scotia, about 100 people dove into the waters near Halifax.

Trent Courage and his brother, Todd Courage, have been organizing an even bigger version of the chilly annual tradition for the past 25 years. The brothers started their event, the Courage Brothers' Polar Bear Dip, in 1985, when they jumped into Lake Ontario in Burlington, Ont.

The annual plunge now takes place at Coronation Park in Oakville, Ont., and all money raised is donated to World Vision to support freshwater projects in developing countries.   

"It's a fun event," said Trent Courage, adding that the annual swim has raised $420,000 to fund development projects to date.

Jane Bargout, one of the organizers of the Oakville plunge, said thousands of people attended the New Year's Day event — but not everybody took the plunge.

"It went really well. There were over 600 people dipping," said Bargout.

"They've also significantly exceeded their fundraising goal, which was $60,000."

Bargout said the event raised more than $230,000 this year.

In Toronto, money raised by the Toronto Polar Bear Club during its New Year's Day dip was donated to Habitat for Humanity Toronto.

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