Bob Stanley wanted to set a high standard for 2018 by braving some extremely low temperatures.
The Charlottetown resident was one of about 60 who took a frozen plunge into the city’s harbour on New Year’s Day as part of the annual P.E.I. Polar Bear Dip.
It was Stanley’s fourth time participating in the dip.
He said he keeps returning to the chilly challenge because he finds it “sets up the year.”
“I figure, if you start the year off doing one crazy thing first thing in the morning, it sort of sets you up do challenges every day all year,” said Stanley. “If you can drag yourself out of bed after going to the Delta to see Platinum Blonde last night, and come up here and do something crazy, then (everyday) challenges are simple. You just look back to January 1 and you go ‘I did that, I’ll do this’.”
Hundreds of spectators lined the small beach adjacent to the Charlottetown Yacht Club to watch the plungers brave freezing temperatures with wind child making it feel like -21 C.
Unlike some previous years, there was thick harbour ice that had to be navigated before swimmers could take a dip.
Cheryl Paynter, who led this year’s dip, said while the area had open water less than a week ago it had a cover of three to four inches of ice by New Year’s Day.
However, organizers found a workaround by cutting a hole in the ice and having swimmers line up to wait their turn. With the water being about four feet deep, a small step-ladder was also used to help swimmers climb out of the hole.
Paynter said organizers were determined to hold the annual tradition and thanked participants for their cooperation, with the event also raising funds and items for the Charlottetown Food Bank.
“It’s a little bit different than charging in from the beach with a crowd and everyone holding hands, but it worked,” said Paynter, adding that despite recent cold temperatures there were never thoughts about cancelling the event.
That meant Island dippers fared better than their Toronto counterparts.
Organizers of the Toronto Polar Bear Dip, which was expected to see about 600 participants, had to cancel the event for the first time in 13 years due to the extreme cold and ice conditions at Sunnyside Beach.
Despite the cold temperatures in P.E.I., this year also saw plenty of first-timers take the plunge.
Devon Perry and Brock Richard both went in for the first time and described the experience as “freezing.”
Perry said he wanted to participate in the event to knock an item off his “bucket list,” while Richard did it as a bet.
“They said I wouldn’t do it… I ended up wanting to prove them wrong and I took the bet,” said Richard.
However, the two did have some hesitation once they realized this year wasn’t going to be the usual format of running into the water.
“That was the only thing that kind of made us think twice, waiting in line to freeze,” said Perry. “But we said we were gonna do it so we were gonna do it… We’re glad we did it.”
The two also recommended the event to others, especially for those who partied hard on New Year’s Eve.
“I recommend doing it next year, if you want something to wake you up first thing in the morning from a hangover, jump in the cold water,” said Perry.