Canadians brave icy waters in annual polar bear dip

Canadians across the country are participating in a frosty New Year's Day tradition -- the polar bear dip.

Ten people braved freezing temperatures to leap off a snow-covered wharf into the frigid Atlantic in Portugal Cove, N.L.

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In Nova Scotia, more than 130 people -- some in colourful costumes -- gathered to leap from a wharf under the watchful eye of members of the local fire department for the 22nd annual polar bear dip in Herring Cove.

People donned tutus and onesies as they plunged from the wharf in the small community just outside Halifax, where temperatures were hovering around -1 C on Friday.

Eighty-one-year-old Ernie Ross was first into the water, wearing salmon-coloured swimming trunks with the phrase "Happy 2016" written across his chest in black marker.

Organizers estimate 250 swimmers -- one wearing a lab coat and riding a boogie board -- entered the water during a polar bear dip at Britannia Beach in Ottawa, as cross-country skiers made their way through a nearby park.

Snow flurries didn't deter several hundred people from turning out at a Toronto beach to run en masse into Lake Ontario in the 11th annual Toronto Polar Bear Dip.

In Oakville, Ont., Olaf the snowman, Santa Claus and at least one Star Wars storm trooper were among the 800 to dip into Lake Ontario.

Jenna Courage has done the dip at least 10 times -- but you never get used to the cold, she said. She and a friend jumped up and down to keep warm, as snow fell around them, before they ran into the water.

Her father, Todd Courage, helped found the Oakville dip 31 years ago, and he's participated every year since then.

For the past 20 years, he and his brother have partnered with World Vision Canada. Swimmers donate money to register, this year raking in $130,000 to bring clean water to Rwanda.

The elder Courage said it was a great success.

The oldest Polar Bear Club in the country was founded in 1920 in Vancouver, and since then the tradition has spread. Vancouver's club is still the largest, with more than 2,500 entries in 2014.



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