A crash-test dummy emerges from the surf seemingly no worse for wear after taking part in the 28th annual Polar Bear Splash at Parksville’s beachfront Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. — J.R. Rardon photo

Sunshine, balmy weather greet Parksville’s Polar Bear Splash

Regional District of Nanaimo draws hundreds to annual New Year’s Day plunge

While traditional ‘Polar Bear’ swims and jumps were cancelled due to bitter cold temperatures in parts of Eastern Canada, participants in the Regional District of Nanaimo’s annual Polar Bear Splash at Parksville beach were treated to mild temperatures, bright sunshine and even a low tide on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018.

Approximately 200 people, ranging from pre-schoolers to retirees, charged into the surf below the boardwalk gazebo in Community Park at noon Monday. Hundreds more lined the beach and boardwalk to cheer, take photos and support friends and family members.

Among the splashers were a trio of friends, Linda Reilly, Janine Murphy and Leanne Wilson, who were all taking part for the first time.

“I’m doing this because I had decided my goal for 2018 was going to be embracing everything with open arms, open mind and open heart,” said Reilly. “And about two minutes after I decided that, I received a text from my friend Janine, asking me to come here and do this. So here we are.”

The event was sponsored by the RDN recreation and parks division, with support from both Arrowsmith Search and Rescue and the Parksville Volunteer Fire Department.

Search and rescue divers waded into the water to hold a rope marking the boundary of the splash area but, due to the low tide, stood in water that reached barely above their knees. Polar Bear Splash participants, many of them in costumes to celebrate the new year, raced to the limit of the course and returned to the beach. Those who did not choose to dive into the water emerged mostly dry above the waist thanks to the shallow water.

Hot beverages and snacks were provided by the RDN on a donation basis.

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Janine Murphy, left, and Dawn Menard celebrate after taking part in the 28th annual Polar Bear Splash at Parksville’s beachfront Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. — J.R. Rardon photo

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