Big crowd for New Year’s dip in Columbia River

Hundreds of people gathered at Gyro Park beach the morning after ringing in the new year to plunge into the 2ºC water.

A bathing suit with a winter jacket was the dress code for Trail’s annual Polar Bear Swim on New Year’s Day.

Hundreds of people gathered at Gyro Park beach the morning after ringing in the new year, watching and waiting for the signal from Corporal Christopher Buckley that it was time to swim in the 2 C water.

There were 129 registered swimmers at the yearly event, some first timers, some seasoned Polar Bear Swim veterans.

Gerald Pinard of Trail had never done the swim before, and he says he had a great time taking the plunge and would do it again.

“This is my first time,” he said, while warming up by the bonfire on the beach after getting out of the water. “It was a spiritual cleansing. The water was awesome – refreshing.”

Pinard was also the lucky winner of the trip for two to Vancouver on Pacific Coastal Airlines – one of many prizes handed out to the brave folks who went for a swim when it was a chilly -8 C outside.

Heidi McLachlan, a Trail resident, has participated in the swim for a few years already, but comes back every New Year’s Day to do it all over again.

“It was cold, but we do it every year,” she said, adding that part of her motivation to jump in the near-freezing water was the effort put in by organizers. “They do such a great job every year, so why not support them.”

The swim has been running for nearly 30 years and started with just a few members of the 44th Engineer and 39th Combat Engineer Squadrons, but has grown significantly since then.

Each registered swimmer was given a day pass for the Trail Aquatic Centre, so they can go for a second swim, but this time, in a heated pool or hot tub.

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