The leading edge of the 200 participants in the annual New Year’s Day Polar Bear Splash plunge into the water at Parksville Community Beach on Friday. For more photos from the event

Intense, icy Polar Bear Splash in Parksville

NEWS reporter Candace Wu was one of 200 to brave the chilly ocean waters on New Year's Day

Parksville’s 26th annual Polar Bear Splash saw 200 people dive into the new year with an impressive, albeit absurd, sense of enthusiasm.

About 1,000 people watched from the sidelines as their arguably insane friends and relatives plunged into the frigid ocean on Friday at noon. Arrowsmith Search and Rescue and Parksville Volunteer Fire Department volunteers were on hand to provide medical aid for the Regional District of Nanaimo event.

It was -1 C outside at Parksville Beach and the sun came out just as participants braved the cold coastal waters.

I was one of them.

And it was just as intense and icy as you might imagine running into the ocean would feel on Jan. 1 in Canada.

The wacky tradition is made only more illustrious by the costumes sported by polar bear plungers: Hawaiian grass skirts and leis, neon mohawks, animal onesies, Santa hats and leftover New Years Eve paraphernalia were just a few of the colourful props worn Friday.

I never used to understand why people did the Polar Bear Splash — it’s a worldwide phenomena, but it always seemed ludicrous to me.

It still does actually, perhaps even more so now that I’ve done it.

But I think I get it.

The Polar Bear Splash is about leaving behind the year past and embracing the future. It’s about starting the year off with a thrill and doing something just for the sake of doing it. In a lot of ways, it’s the first adventure of the year.

So, here’s to 2016. A year of jumping in.

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