Peachland firefighters took the plunge in Wednesday's polar bear dip. Some 200 people jumped into the 4 C water of Okanagan Lake for the annual event.
The 4 C water temperature did nothing to blunt the courage of Chief Dennis Craig, whose crew answered a challenge from retired chief Grant Topham and other former firefighters. More than 10 members waded into Okanagan Lake up to their necks, turned around and shivered their way back to Peachland Beach.
"It was a lot of fun," a smiling Craig said as his daughter passed him a towel. "I'll be back here next year." His advice to other first-timers - get cold first.
It seemed half the record crowd of 218-plus had never before doffed their clothes and run into the frigid depths on a Canadian winter day.
Audra Bayer, who recently moved to West Kelowna from Winnipeg, said going in was straightforward - it was coming out that took her breath away.
"You're so excited going in, you run with commitment. It's new, and exciting. You come out and it's like buyer's remorse," said Bayer, 47. "One more page for the memory book."
Ron Mapson, 55, made a resolution a year ago to enter the polar bear dip this year. He wore coveralls cut off at the knee and a penguin hat as he prepared to get drenched.
"It's already shrinking in anticipation," he said wryly.
Brock Robson, 23, and friend Jim Lovell of Kelowna are both veterans of the polar-bear dip in Prince George, where the ice is so thick a truck drives onto Ness Lake and entertains the swimmers with music. Organizers cut a hole big enough for 10 people to jump in at a time.
"You stay in a few seconds and get in the hot tub," Lovell said shortly before Wednesday's swim.
He planned to close his eyes, run and hope he doesn't trip on a rock. Robson vowed to "just do it."
"You run in. If you wade in, you'll chicken out," he said.
Annette Lemieux, her sister Kari Lemieux and friend Lisa Levelle got gussied up in evening gowns, top hats and sequins for the baptism. Levelle turns 50 this year and plans to celebrate the whole time.
"What better way to do it than make a splash?" she said.
For ice swimmer Paul Duffield, the dip was like a stroll in the park. He swam 2.32 kilometres along the shore of Gellatly Bay last March in water colder than 5 C - the Inter-national Ice Swimming Association standard. The feat gave him the world distance record for several months and distinguished him as the only Canadian ice swimmer.
Wednesday's dip was Duffield's third at Peachland, and his wife Angelique's first.
"You can still feel it going in. It's just fun," he said. "It's a great way to wash out 2013 and start 2014."
The event has continued each year since 1996, when 20 swimmers ran into the lake. The community Lions and Rotary club offered hotdogs and hot drinks for donations Wednesday. Proceeds go to the Peachland Food Bank.