Hundreds of brave swimmers welcomed 2023 with a chilly dip in the frigid waters of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday (Jan. 1), for the first in-person Polar Bear Plunge in White Rock since 2019.
Last held on the beach in 2020 to mark its 50th year, local residents were encouraged to do virtual plunges in 2021 and 2022 due to COVID-19 concerns, but cold-water swimmers really embraced the return of the in-person swim, said one of the event’s organizers, Melanie Smith.
“It was really good! There were a lot of people, a lot of costumes, and a lot of kids came out, too,” she said.
“We had 466 people register, which is a new high, and way more than that went into the water, so we think these could be the biggest numbers to date.”
Participants gathered with family and friends at the white rock just east of the pier for the plunge, which took place at noon on Sunday.
RCM-SAR 5 volunteers – Crescent Beach’s Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue team – were on hand to help, as usual, with their rescue vessel and in cold suits, to help ensure swimmers didn’t go too far out while swimming.
“They’re a really big help,” Smith said.
Some swimmers at the White Rock swim also showed up at the 15th annual Crescent Rock Polar ‘Bare’ Plunge shortly afterward, a clothing-optional plunge.
Held by Surrey’s United Naturists in the icy waters of Mud Bay, the South Surrey swim attracted 22 participants this year, another high.
“That’s a record for us,” SUN president Don Pitcairn said.
Four swimmers, including Pitcairn himself, completed the trifecta of three polar bear swims in one day to become part of the ‘Mad Hatter’s Club’, with the third plunge at Engish Bay at 2:30 p.m.
“To do all three in one day can be a little crazy,” he said, noting it was his second time doing it, to celebrate his 60th birthday.
“It’s fun to do.”