The air around Lake Ontario was hovering around freezing levels, but that didn’t stop thousands of people from plunging into the new year in this year’s polar bear dip.

Participants in the 34th annual Courage Polar Bear Dip for World Vision stood on the beach at Oakville’s Coronation Park and Sunnyside Beach in Toronto around 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, waiting for the big countdown. Despite the temperature being about 3 C, participants wore wearing bathing suits or elaborate costumes.

As the crowd counted down, participants began to rush into Lake Ontario. As one participant told CTV News Toronto, “don’t think, just get in.”

While some frolicked in the frigid waters, others let out piercing screams and ran right back out to the beach.

“It’s cold. It’s really cold. But, I feel like a million bucks,” another participant said.

Over the last 34 years, the Courage Polar Bear Dip has raised about $1.7 million for World Vision’s clean water initiatives, with this year’s contributions coming in at $120,000.

The event began on New Year’s Day in 1985, when a man named Trent Courage was challenged by his mother to jump in the lake.

“She said, go jump in the lake. And we said only if you join us, and she did,” Courage told CTV News Toronto.

Courage said that starting the new year jumping into chilly waters is “refreshing.”

“I feel very, very alive right now. Unbelievably so.”

Last year’s polar plunge was cancelled after the beach froze over. It was the first time the annual event was cancelled in 33 years.

With files from CTV News Toronto's Sean Leathong