White Rock Polar Plunge to go ahead, despite dead anchovies

Annual New Year event to return to White Rock beach after Dec. 20 storm destroyed waterfront

Although it might smell a little fishy, the White Rock Polar Bear Plunge is set to return in the new year for the 50th anniversary event.

Some residents expressed concern that the event might be cancelled due to an alarming number of dead anchovy near the city’s pier.

However, organizer Lindagene Coyle told Peace Arch News Monday that she see no issue with the dead fish, as most of them are located near the pier and not near the white rock, where the event is to be held.

“All the muck is on the west side of the pier. Actually, there’s not even that much anymore,” Coyle said. “It’s great, it doesn’t smell, there’s no dead fish all over the place, everything’s cleaned up.”

SEE ALSO: ‘Millions’ of shimmery fish in White Rock waters captivate

The annual plunge, co-ordinated by the Semiahmoo Peninsula’s six Rotary clubs, was cancelled this year after a Dec. 20 storm destroyed the pier and scattered broken boats and hundreds of logs along the shoreline.

Come Jan. 1, swimmers brave enough – or crazy enough – to endure the cold will plunge into the waters near the white rock at 12 p.m.

Organizers are not only encouraging people to dress up, but will award prizes for the best costume.

Coyle said one of her favourite costumes over the past few years was an elderly couple dressed up in red long johns and Santa hats.

“They were just so cute,” Coyle said.

The event used to be known as a ‘swim’ but Coyle explained it was renamed as a plunge because that’s more reflective of what people do.

However, Coyle said, there are a few people every year who aren’t deterred by the chilly water.

“Some people are crazy. And some people come and they are inebriated. They have, you know, leftover from the night before. So, we have to be prepared to take care of them.”

Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue supports the event by making sure the swimmers are safe.

One year, Coyle said, event organizers placed an ‘iceberg’ a fair distance into the water and the first person who swam to the iceberg and rang a bell received a prize.

SEE ALSO: Seals and gulls swarm White Rock for fish-feeding frenzy

“I can’t tell you what the prize was the first year because we quickly became aware that it was illegal,” Coyle said. “You can’t give like, Polar Vodka, as a prize. So we had to change that up.”

“It only happened one time. It was a neat idea if you think about it.”

Coyle said if they wanted to have a bottle of vodka as the prize, they would need a licence. Additionally, she said, there are other reasons for the restriction, including that it’s a public place and children are there.

“It makes no sense. It’s a closed bottle. But anyway, it doesn’t matter. We cannot do that and we don’t do that,” Coyle said.

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