It’s become a tradition for Trevor Hartl of Fort Langley, and his 10-year-old son, Ben, to jump into the Fraser River on New Year’s Day.
Their family moved to the Langley neighbourhood two years ago, and are excited to be part of what they call the village’s annual celebrations.
Admittedly, his teeth were chattering and he was pretty anxious to exit the water and get wrapped up in a plush robe he’d brought with him.
It was definitely colder than last year, said Trevor, whom newbie neighbour and friend Josh Mitchell described as a “veteran.”
“It was way colder… way colder,” Trevor said. “There was ice in the water. There was snow on the ground. It was damn cold.”
In the meantime, Jason Manning, a 26-year-old Walnut Grove resident, has dipped his feet in cold waters across the country, but the Mighty Fraser River seemed a little colder than any others he can remember.
“I think the snow makes it worse, at least psychologically,” he said, looking around as most fellow swimmers bundled up and bolted.
A couple years ago, Manning cycled across the country – stopping to swim in lakes and rivers in every province along the way.
What is his tip for surviving a polar bear swim? “You can’t think about it,” he said, advising people to dive in and make sure to dunk your head.
“You have to go for a full body submerge,” he said.
“I think to get the full experience of the coldness, you have to get the full body [wet].”
This is an unofficial community event – started four years ago by Fort Langley’s Darian Kovacs and a few of his buddies.
When it started, it was just the three men who ventured into the water, with their wives watching from the shoreline.
The event has grown significantly through the past few years, Kovacs said, estimating there were 400 people spread out along the beach Brae Island Regional Park at noon on New Year’s Day. About half – 200 – of those he believes took a dip.
“It was another great year,” said the 35-year-old Fort Langley resident and business owner, who said the polar bear swim was true to its name this year.
He and his 10-year-old son, Caedmon, had to chip away ice along the shore before swimmers entered the water.
“We were so excited so many people came out,” Kovacs said.
“It was invigorating. It woke us up. We’re ready for 2017… It’s a new year. We’re excited for 2017 and all that it will bring.”