87-year-old marks 20th dip at Polar Bear Swim's centennial
VANCOUVER -- One of the most enthusiastic polar bear swimmers is also someone who wouldn't typically be considered an adrenaline-junkie.
Zhidong Yu, 87, said he looks forward to the chilly event every year.
"Because it's New Year's and a new beginning, I have to be here on New Year's Day," he said in an interview in Mandarin, which was later translated into English.
Yu immigrated from China in 2000. When he celebrated his first Canadian New Year's, he decided to partake in the chilly tradition.
"He enjoys it -- it's such a thrill," Kehua Anderson, Yu's daughter, said. "He says it's good for health and even this ocean water, he says it's good for his skin."
Wednesday afternoon marked his 20th dip and the sunshine was there to welcome the crowds.
"Today's weather is not cold, very comfortable … better than other years," Yu said.
He said it was extra special because it was also the Polar Bear Swim's centennial anniversary, making it one of the largest and oldest dips in the world.
According to the Vancouver Park Board, it was started by Peter Pantages and nine other brave swimmers in 1920. They formed a group known as the Vancouver Polar Bear Club.
Since then, between 2,000 and 4,000 participants take the plunge every year, the park board said.
Yu hopes to continue participating in the event for as long as he can.
"He tells me he wants to go for another 20 years," Anderson said. "If health permits, he'll go every year and we are committed to that and to bringing him here."