Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS A woman dressed as a hot dog plunges into an icy pond during the annual polar bear dip in Calgary, Monday.

Nova Scotia kicks off New Year’s Day polar bear dips in spite of extreme cold

HALIFAX — Organizers cancelled two New Year’s Day polar bear dips in Ontario because of the frigid temperatures, but not even a layer of ice could stop hundreds of people from plunging into the freezing waters of Herring Cove, N.S.

Just hours before it was scheduled to begin, organizers of the Courage Polar Bear Dip in Oakville, Ont., announced they were calling off the event because of “significant” ice and rock movement that would have made the plunge unsafe.

They said it was the first time in 33 years the event had been cancelled.

Toronto organizers cancelled their New Year’s Day plunge on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the dip outside Halifax was only delayed a few minutes while a boat chipped away at a sheet of ice covering the cove.

But once the water was cleared, 83-year-old Arnie Ross took the inaugural leap with “2018” scrawled across his chest.

The crowd chanted his name as Ross clawed up the icy ladder. He said the water was every bit as refreshing as it had been for his past 21 jumps.

“Twenty-two years,” he exclaimed, flexing his muscles for the crowd.

Robert Garnier said he has braved snowstorms, pounding surf and biting winds in his 27 years taking the plunge, a New Year tradition he said he inherited from his late father.

“He said, ‘How you live this day is how you live the rest of your year,’” said Garnier. “I start it with a bang and look at it like a rebirth, if you will, or a baptism to 2018.”

About 250 jumpers followed the octogenarian into the ice-cold water, organizers said, including children as young as 10, international students and burly men donning Hawaiian skirts and kilts.

In spite of extreme cold warnings issued by Environment Canada that cover much of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and southern Quebec, many events were scheduled to go ahead.

Swimmers in Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria also took the plunge.

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