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Photos: A chilly start to the new year as Port Moody's Penguin Plunge returns

The Penguin Plunge was cancelled by COVID-19 public health restrictions in 2021 and 2022.

Dozens of (fool)hardy swimmers braved a cold drizzle and the even colder waters of Burrard Inlet at the return of the Penguin Plunge, Sunday at Port Moody’s Rocky Point Park.

It was the first time the event had been in three years after COVID-19 public health restrictions caused the cancellation of the New Year’s Day tradition in 2021 and 2022.

Judging by the anticipation at the caution tape stretched across the top of the boat ramp, everyone was keen to get wet. Several said they were first-timers. One travelled from as far as Abbotsford.

David Stuart, the president of the Pleasantside Community Association that’s organized the plunge since it began in the 1970s, said the event’s return is as much about welcoming back a semblance of normalcy after two years of weathering the pandemic as it is about ringing in the new year with a bit of lunacy.

Money raised from the $5 registration fee goes to support community groups that operate out of Old Orchard Hall.

After the ceremonial placement of a block of ice into the water by a costumed penguin to ensure the water is as cold as it can be, the swimmers sprinted down the ramp and splashed into the water. Most reversed course and headed right back up the ramp and into the embrace of warm towels and thick, fluffy robes as soon as they got sufficiently wet. Others lingered, even swam a few strokes.

Hundreds of onlookers lined along the rails of the pier raised their cellphones in the air to capture the madness.

Ten minutes later, the ramp was quiet. Many of the swimmers gathered round a giant bonfire tended by members of Port Moody Fire Rescue. Some lined up for free hot beverages and some just headed straight back to the warmth of their vehicles.