Polar bear dip 2024: Hundreds of Canadians brave cold for new year ‘reboot’

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Hundreds of people across Canada shrieked, shivered and smiled their way into a new year on Monday as they took part in the long-standing tradition of Jan. 1 polar bear dips.

Canadians have been marking New Year’s Day with plunges into lakes, oceans and rivers made frigid by typical January conditions since at least 1920, and scheduled events in cities spanning Halifax to Vancouver were poised to maintain the ritual.

Joanie McNally, from Sackville N.S., lost no time in kicking off this year’s polar dips when she ran into the frigid ocean water at Queensland Beach on Nova Scotia’s South Shore at 9 a.m. Monday morning. In doing so, she also fulfilled a long-standing personal goal.

“We’re always at this beach, but this is the first time (swimming) when it’s on the more frigid side,” she said moments before taking the plunge.

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“It’s a bit of a challenge to start the new year on the right track.”


People participate in the annual New Years Day Polar Bear Dip in Oakville, Ont., on Sunday, January 1, 2024. Participants plunge into the frigid waters of Lake Ontario each year to raise money for charity.


THE CANADIAN PRESS/Arlyn McAdorey


A Polar Bear plunger rings in the New Year with a jump into the Tay River on the 30th Anniversary of the Perth Polar Bear Plunge in Perth, Ont. on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024.


THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby

The temperature sat around -5 C as McNally and 11 other swimmers stripped off their winter jackets, mittens and hats and went off into the icy waves.

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McNally’s husband and daughter, along with a handful of other spectators, cheered and hollered for the group as they ran from the frozen sand to the icy water.


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Dave Morash, also from the Sackville area, said this is the coldest polar plunge he’s done in at least six years.

Morash and a small group of fellow high school teachers have been doing the plunge together since 2018, but he says this is the first time since then that the temperature has been below zero on New Years Day.

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“It’s invigorating, it’s like all of your nerve endings start tingling,” he said immediately after the dip.

“I always refer to it as a reboot, you sort of reboot your system like a computer. So here we go, here comes 2024,” he said with a laugh as he dried off.

Monday’s swim, while launching new traditions for some, also marked a departure from New Year’s Days past in Halifax.

For many years, swimmers jumped into the ocean from a city wharf as part of the Herring Cove Polar Bear Dip. The non-profit organization that had put on the event since 1994 cancelled the 2021 dip due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and has not resumed since.

A recent social media post from the Herring Cove Polar Dip organization says it is “hoping to look at options going forward” for future events and asked for volunteer support.

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When Halifax resident Darrell Robert found out there would not be an organized dip yet again this year, he suggested in comments on social media that people meet at Queensland Beach for an impromptu swim.

“It’s nice to corral people and motivate each other to do something new on a new year,” he said, adding he was pleased to see so many faces show up at the beach Monday morning.

“I like to see people get together as a community, I think it’s great and it’s a great start to the new year.”

Similar events, many of which are intended to raise money for charity, are set to take place in locations including Charlottetown, Saint John, N.B., Oakville, Ont., and Vancouver.


A Polar Bear plunger reacts as they jump into the Tay River to ring in the New Year on the 30th Anniversary of the Perth Polar Bear Plunge in Perth, Ont. on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024.


THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby


People participate in the annual New Years Day Polar Bear Dip in Oakville, Ont., on Sunday, January 1, 2024. Participants plunge into the frigid waters of Lake Ontario each year to raise money for charity.


THE CANADIAN PRESS/Arlyn McAdorey

In Oakville, Ont., a city just west of Toronto, the return of sub-zero temperatures following days of unseasonably mild conditions proved no deterrent for the roughly 850 people who took part in a plunge at Coronation Park. The swim in Lake Ontario was intended to raise money for charity World Vision Canada.

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CEO Michael Messenger said this year’s dip has so far raised $100,000 towards projects that help provide clean water in developing countries.

The 39th annual Oakville plunge marked the first such dip for 11-year-old Luca Tarabokia.

“I’m pretty excited for it because the waves look awesome and I like the waves,” Tarabokia said.

“It’s my first time. I want to do it again next year if it goes well.”

His mother, Jane Moran, called Tarabokia the “cold water representative” for their family.

“You’ve got to have a certain fortitude to be able to do this and I really, really admire those who are able to do it, but I’m not one of them,” she said with a laugh.

&copy 2024 The Canadian Press

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