2009 Polar Bear Swims across the US and Canada today
As part of a New Years Day tradition across the United States and Canada, thousands of people will be battling their hangovers to plunge into icy waters, swim out to a designated point, and then swim back to the cheers and respect from their fellow swimmers and spectators alike.
Many of the events are orgainzed by the Polar Bear Clubs.
Vancouver has a Polar Bear Swim every year in English Bay - this year being the 89th one. However this year will be especially cold, due to all the recent winter weather.
Brave swimmers will plunge into the icy waters at 2:30pm. Registration is free and people are being asked to meet at the Boathouse.
In Surrey, some people will ring in the New Year with their own swim, but without swimsuits! The Skinnydipper Recreation Club and Surrey United Naturists are hosting the 3rd annual charity swim at 1 o'clock tomorrow. There will be coffee and a bonfire to help people warmup afterwards.
Coney Island in New York has had a polar bear swim every year since 1903, and this year about 700 people are expected to show up to take part. There will be many more people watching from the shore however! This is normal for the club though, as they do this every Sunday during the winter. The club's president explains why:
Well, it's been a long-standing New York tradition, for one thing. It's a celebration of the new year, it's a way to celebrate Coney Island, it's a way of breaking away from the past year. This is an activity that's so different and so distinct from what we normally do in our everyday lives that it's a very cathartic and cleansing experience.
Seattle host their polar bear swim in Lake Washington, and at least the snow and ice have gone for now.
The original local polar-bear swim at Matthews Beach is in its seventh year and organizers expect to hand out about 1,000 official Polar Bear Plunge Patches to everyone who takes the plunge. It's free and festive, and costumes are encouraged.
Lake George in New York will be the scene of its 29th annual swim and hundreds are expected to come out for the 2pm start.
In Pittsburgh, their Polar Bear Club will be taking the plunge into the icy water.
Organizers say the event grows in popularity every year.
This year about 200 people are expected to take part in the frigid fun.
Officials say it should be about 21 degrees as this year's brave souls take their jump around 9:30 a.m.
Back in the Lower Mainland of Canada, Delta is also hosting their own swim at Centennial Beach in Tsawwassen.
Laurie Collicutt, Delta's co-ordinator of community recreation, said there were 251 swimmers at last year's event and about 2,500 spectators.
The actual swim starts at 1 p.m. Collicutt stressed it is not an endurance event and Delta staff clear the water of swimmers quickly once the bell that is placed about 25 feet offshore has been rung by the first three swimmers to reach it.
Prizes are awarded to the first three to the bell as well as to the oldest and youngest swimmers.