HALIFAX — Daring swimmers in Halifax braved the frigid Atlantic Ocean to kick off a slew of polar bear plunges across Canada on New Year's Day.
The event on the East Coast started a little late, however, because a boat needed to break up the ice in Herring Cove, where the air was a chilly -19 with the wind chill.
83-year-old Arnie Ross took the inaugural leap with "2018'' scrawled across his chest.
The crowd chanted his name as Ross clawed up the icy ladder. He said the water was every bit as refreshing as it had been for his past 21 jumps.
"Twenty-two years," he exclaimed, flexing his muscles for the crowd.
About 250 jumpers followed the octogenarian into the ice-cold water, organizers said, including children as young as 10, international students and burly men donning Hawaiian skirts and kilts.
The annual events see brave individuals begin the new year by running or jumping into lakes and oceans, often to raise money for charity.
And in spite of extreme cold warnings issued by Environment Canada that cover much of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and southern Quebec, many events were scheduled to go ahead.
Swimmers in the eastern Ontario town of Perth, as well as Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria will take the plunge later in the day.
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However, just hours before it was scheduled to begin, organizers of the Courage Polar Bear Dip in Oakville, Ont., announced they were calling off their event because of "significant" ice and rock movement that would have made the plunge unsafe.
They said it was the first time in 33 years the event had been cancelled.
The Toronto Polar Bear Club also opted to call off its dip for the first time in 13 years.
The club said participant safety and ice conditions at Toronto's Sunnyside Beach led to the decision to cancel.
It added it's looking into running the event on a later date, but is encouraging anyone doing their own "mini polar bear dip" on New Year's Day to post video to Facebook or Twitter.
For alternatives to a dip, it suggests jumping in a snowbank or making snow angels while wearing a bathing suit.
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