2016 Polar Bear Swim

The 2016 Polar Bear Swim drew 61 swimmers, about half the number of people who usually dare to jump in.

This year it actually felt warmer in the water than standing on the beach.

That’s what the majority of swimmers proclaimed following the Polar Bear Swim on New Years Day in Trail.

The Columbia River was a balmy 4 C at noon on Friday in Gyro Park, compared to the -8 C temperature that felt much colder taking into account the wind chill.

But there was no complaining from the 61 swimmers who rang in the new year with a dip once the rescue boat was near shore and Lt. Bart Fyffe gave the signal.

Though the number of participants was roughly half the usual, (last year there were 129) the beach was lined with hundreds of onlookers, who cheered and snapped photos before gathering around the beach bonfire, courtesy of the 44 Engineer Squadron.

First on the beach this year, arriving at 10:30 a.m. in shorts, T-shirt, and a Santa hat, was Jim Harrold.

After 25 years of taking a dip Jan. 1, whether it was in Vancouver, Mission or Trail, Harrold well knows that acclimatizing to the conditions before taking the plunge somewhat softens the blow and prevents “brain freeze” when diving in head first.

This year, Harrold had an added challenge, which was a hair-free scalp.

On Dec. 19 at the Trail Legion, he shaved his head to raise awareness for cancer.

Besides keeping the tradition of a Polar Bear Swim and being one of the first in the river this year, Friday also marked Harrold’s first day sitting as president of the Trail Legion since he left the position one year ago.

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