Sisters Rowan and Miranda Sepos were among approximately 200 participants — many in costume — who took part in the 2015 Polar Bear Splash at Parksville's Community Beach. The 2016 Splash takes place at noon New Year's Day.

Parksville plans big splash into New Year

Hundreds expected to brave waters off coast in annual Jan. 1 plunge

The New Year will come in with a splash for hundreds of area residents when the Regional District of Nanaimo hosts its 26th annual Polar Bear Splash into the waters at Parksville Beach at noon on Jan. 1.

While many friends and supporters watch and cheer from the shore, bundled in coats, scarves and toques, participants will race — often accompanied by shrieks and squeals — into the frigid waters in swimsuits or colourful costumes to celebrate the turning of the calendar.

“The crowds keep growing, which is nice,” said Mike Chestnut, RDN aquatics director. “Last year, I think we had over 200 supporters that came out.”

The event is supported by volunteers from Arrowsmith Search and Rescue’s water rescue team, who will be stationed in the water, and by Parksville Fire Department firefighters and first responders, who will be present to provide shoreside medical aid as needed.

Hot chocolate, coffee and snacks will be available by donation.

The Polar Bear Splash is open to participants of all ages. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m., with the actual plunge scheduled for noon.

The splash began in 1990, and has experienced cyclical fluctuation in turnout throughout the years. But participation has been on the upswing this decade.

“I thought last year we hit about 200 participants,” said Chestnut. “It’s had sort of a resurgence in the last couple of years.”

RDN staff remind splashers and their supporters to bring along a few extra items like water shoes, an extra towel or two and a warm change of clothes.

For reasons of safety, the RDN also asks participants to be aware of and moderate their consumption of alcohol the night before the splash.

For more information, visit the Polar Bear Splash group on Facebook or call 250-752-5014.

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