Hundreds turned out to White Rock's 2014 Polar Bear Swim.

Hundreds turned out to White Rock's 2014 Polar Bear Swim.

Hundreds take Jan. 1 dip in White Rock

Organizers of the White Rock Polar Bear swim estimate 700 enthusiasts rang in the new year at 44th annual dip.

Hundreds of hardy souls rang in the new year last week with a  chilly dip into the waters off White Rock beach.

“It was a good event,” said Kyle McKay, secretary for the Peace Arch Monarch Lions club that hosted the Jan. 1 Polar Bear Swim.

“We’re guessing we had about 550 registered swimmers and about 150 non-registered.”

But McKay said it’s still too soon to say what, if any, difference the turnout means to the swim’s future.

The event was almost called off this year due to a decline in volunteers and an aging membership, and it’s been suggested that the 2014 swim could well be the last hosted by the club.

“We have an aging population amongst our group,” McKay said. “Last year, we really struggled with it, too.”

The club has hosted the swim for 44 years.

McKay didn’t know if publicity around its possible demise influenced the turnout, which was significantly greater than last year, when 361 swimmers registered.

She estimated nearly 2,000 people turned out to watch the 2014 swim.

“It was a good event. We had lots of people come up to us and say, ‘please don’t give this up, please don’t give this up.’”

City officials are hopeful another community group will step forward to ensure it continues.

South Surrey’s Pitcairn achieves polar swim ‘triple crown’

Don PitcairnThe Mad Hatters Swim Club has awarded Crescent Beach resident Don Pitcairn the “Triple Crown of Polar Swims” after the 51-year-old took part in three such swims on Jan. 1.

Pitcairn – a member of the Surrey-based Skinnydipper Recreation Club, who has also run for provincial office in Surrey-White Rock as a member of the BC Green Party – completed the three events in a 2½-hour span.

He first took part in White Rock’s polar-bear dip at noon, before attending the nude Crescent Beach Polar “Bare” Plunge at 1 p.m. and a 2:30 p.m. event at English Bay in Vancouver.