01/01/2017 02:31 EST | Updated 01/01/2017 06:08 EST

Polar Bear Swimmers Kick Off New Year With Frosty Plunge

It's an annual tradition.

An octogenarian, with the words "Happy 2017'' scrawled across his body in permanent marker, took the inaugural leap into the Atlantic Ocean in one of the first polar bear swims of the year.

Eighty-two-year-old Arnie Ross, clad in coral swim trunks, was the first of more than 250 people to jump off the wharf in Herring Cove, N.S., on Sunday.

Organizers said it was the best turn-out since the first polar bear swim in Herring Cove in 1994.

Revellers brave the ice as they participate in the annual New Year's polar bear dip in Charlottetown harbour on Jan. 1, 2017. (Photo: Andrew Vaughan/CP)

Ross has there almost since the beginning — it was his 21st year participating in the New Year's Day tradition, and he doesn't plan on quitting anytime soon.

"My own belief is a lot of people come to see me to see if I'm going to die this year when I hit the water,'' Ross said. "I'm not going to because I plan to live to over age 100.''

East Coasters, like those in the Halifax suburb of Herring Cove and others in Charlottetown, were the first of thousands across the country to ring in the new year by dipping into Canada's frigid waters today.

People run into the frigid waters of Lake Ontario at Sunnyside beach during the Toronto Polar Bear Dip. (Photo: Giordano Ciampini/Anadolu Agency/Getty)

In Toronto, hundreds more ran into Lake Ontario: some in costume, others in bathing suits.

"I think this is definitely the coldest I've ever been,'' said Cait Caulfield, who bundled herself in a reflective emergency blanket after her dip in the lake.

But the adrenaline rush was worth it, she said. She's planning on coming back next year, and she'll bring friends.

Kelsey Plett, left, and his wife Jill Plett celebrate their first wedding anniversary leaping into a frozen pond in the annual Polar Bear Dip in Calgary, Alta., on Jan. 1, 2017. (Photo: Jeff McIntosh/CP)

About 40 kilometres down the road, in suburban Oakville, Ont., 700 people ran into the lake at another event. They had been told to wear red and white to mark Canada's sesquicentennial year, and money raised from donations went to charity.

Vancouverites were to take part in this year's edition of the oldest and largest "Polar Bear Club'' in Canada later Sunday. Last year there were more than 2,000 participants.

Watch a video of Canadians taking the plunge above.