About 140 hardy souls took the plunge at Gryo Park on Sunday to bring in 2012 with the annual Polar Bear Swim.

About 140 hardy souls took the plunge at Gryo Park on Sunday to bring in 2012 with the annual Polar Bear Swim.

Trail citizens take the frigid plunge in polar bear swim

Big turnout in Trail for annual dip in Columbia River

Emma Hust was wondering what she had gotten into Sunday morning on New Year’s Day.

As she rode in the car towards Gyro Park in Trail, the 16-year-old exchange student from Denmark was in disbelief of what was to take place.

Hurst had agreed to partake in one of the most Canadian traditions around, the polar bear dip, a full-body plunge into icy water to ring in the New Year.

A New Year’s Day tradition in Trail for 25 years — and across the country since 1920 — polar bear dips are a uniquely Canadian endeavour, one that tests the mettle of the most hardened Canuck, let alone an unassuming teenager from Aabenaraa, Den., and her 18-year-old best friend, Angela Thomas, from Frankfurt, Germany.

The two young ladies had acted on a suggestion by Steve Cutt, Hust’s billet in Rossland where she attended Rossland Secondary School for one year.

Cutt had suggested the polar bear dip to her, revealing it was a tradition of his family for the last six years. But when the moment of truth came Sunday as Hust and Thomas lined up alongside Cutt, his family and 140 other polar bear dippers, she couldn’t get the ordeal over with fast enough.

She lasted a few seconds in the water, enough for her and Thomas to dunk their heads and spring for the shore where a bonfire awaited.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she said at the time. “When I stood at the edge of the water I didn’t think at all, I just went out and in and came back.”

“I was sure I was going to freeze after,” said Thomas recalled.

“It’s only cold if you are in there for a few minutes, but then, after a few minutes you are near the fire (so it’s good),” said Cutt.

The Trail dip started 24 years ago when seven members of the 44 Engineer Squadron decided to jump into the river.

The nation’s oldest club in Vancouver has been active since 1920 and typically has 1,000 to 2,000 registered participants, with a record 2,128 registrants plunging into English Bay in 2000.

Not all Canadian dips take place in January.

In Yellowknife, NWT, the Freezin for a Reason plunge is held in March after the spring thaw.

Although emergency service workers were on site, and the Trail fire department on the river in a rescue boat, their services were not needed.

After the swim, dippers gathered around the bonfire blazing on the beach, and hot chocolate was served while a pile of prizes was drawn.

Every registrant was given a free pass for a swim in a much warmer body of water than the Columbia River and a relaxing dip in a hot tub courtesy of the Trail Parks and Recreation Aquatic Centre.

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