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Thousands to take the plunge in local polar bear swims

Scene from the 90th annual Polar Bear Swim at English Bay (2010) (File Photo)

Biggest polar bear swim in the Lower Mainland is at English Bay

LOWER MAINLAND (NEWS 1130) – In Vancouver, it’s a New Year’s tradition entering its 96th year.

Thousands are expected to make the plunge into English Bay for the Polar Bear Swim.

2014 was the record breaker, with over 2,500 entries. Today, Park Board Chair Sarah Kirby-Yung is expecting an even bigger crowd.

“I am really hoping that we blow that out of the water — pun intended. The weather is beautiful — it’s going to be a sunny and clear day. I’d love to see us exceed the numbers from last year.”

Why do people do it?

“It’s bragging rights. It’s a really fun thing to say that you’ve done and have that experience. You get to be a part of it — you’ve got a couple thousand people down there and the energy is amazing. Lots of people are in costume; some of them dress up as reindeer or Jaws,” says Kirby-Yung.

But she notes the water will be chilly; it’s expected to be around six degrees. “That’s why they call it the polar bear swim! But it’s a great, refreshing way to kick-start 2016.”

So is the Park Board chair going in?

“You know, I would love to. I have some duties I have to do as MC and I’ve got to hand out some trophies and some prizes… But definitely tempting!” says Kirby-Yung.

You can register for the Vancouver swim at the English Bay Bathhouse starting at 12:30 p.m.; the swim begins at 2:30 p.m.

Other celebratory dips taking place across the Lower Mainland:

The 46th annual Polar Bear Swim in White Rock starts at noon, just east of the pier.

Deep Cove’s Panorama Park is hosting the annual Penguin Plunge at 2 p.m. Donations support North Shore Rescue.

In West Vancouver, the first “Bipolar Swim” for mental health at Ambleside Beach begins at noon.

Delta’s 36th annual Polar Bear Madness swim at Boundary Bay Regional Park and the clothing-optional Polar Bare Plunge at Crescent Rock Beach both start at 1 p.m.