PHOTOS: Greater Victoria polar bear swimmers plunge into 2023

Swimmers sporting festive New Year’s attire enjoy a chilly dip at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)Swimmers sporting festive New Year’s attire enjoy a chilly dip at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)
Over 100 Greater Victoria residents gather at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1) to ring in the New Year with a polar bear plunge. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)Over 100 Greater Victoria residents gather at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1) to ring in the New Year with a polar bear plunge. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)
Swimmers sporting festive New Year’s attire enjoy a chilly dip at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)Swimmers sporting festive New Year’s attire enjoy a chilly dip at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)
Swimmers sporting festive New Year’s attire enjoy a chilly dip at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)Swimmers sporting festive New Year’s attire enjoy a chilly dip at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)
Swimmers sporting festive New Year’s attire enjoy a chilly dip at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)Swimmers sporting festive New Year’s attire enjoy a chilly dip at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)
Over 100 Greater Victoria residents gather at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1) to ring in the New Year with a polar bear plunge. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)Over 100 Greater Victoria residents gather at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1) to ring in the New Year with a polar bear plunge. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)
Swimmers brave the polar plunge at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)Swimmers brave the polar plunge at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)
Swimmers brave the polar plunge at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)Swimmers brave the polar plunge at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)
Swimmers warm up with snacks and beverages after exiting the frigid waters at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)Swimmers warm up with snacks and beverages after exiting the frigid waters at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)
Seienjuku karate students train while wading in the water at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)Seienjuku karate students train while wading in the water at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)
Seienjuku karate students train while wading in the water at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)Seienjuku karate students train while wading in the water at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1). (Austin Westphal/News Staff)

For Greater Victoria’s fearless cold water swimmers, ringing in the new year starts by taking the (polar) plunge.

Even if it means swimming in rain, sleet, hail or snow.

More than a hundred brave souls gathered at Willows Beach in Oak Bay on Sunday (Jan. 1) to take part in swim group Cold Water Addicts’ 90th Sunday Adventure, and kick start 2023 with the ultimate refresh.

ALSO READ: Vancouver Island’s new year’s baby born to the sound of fireworks

Participants took to the water donning party horns, dresses, umbrella hats, costumes and other festive attire to help ring in the New Year Island style.

The cold temperatures didn’t turn out to be as much of a shock as couple Harris and Lena Gilmore had anticipated. “We haven’t done it for about ten years,” Harris said. “But it felt fantastic and refreshing. It’s the way to do it.”

Organizer Brian Bolli, a regular cold water swimmer, said there’s no better way to kick off the new year than with an icy dip. It was also the first time Cold Water Addicts organized a New Year’s polar bear swim at Willows Beach.

“We had no idea what to expect whatsoever,” he said. “But look at all the people here, you have to enjoy that.”

ALSO READ: New year, new rules: Some of the new laws in Canada beginning Jan. 1, 2023


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