Okanagan swimmers usher in 2014 with a cold dip

Participants, like the temperatures, hovered around the freezing mark at the 29th annual Summerland Kinsmen New Year’s Day Polar Bear Dip.

At the stroke of noon over 100 brave souls ran screaming en masse into the chilly waters of Okanagan Lake at Sun-Oka Beach Provincial Park to usher in 2014.

Most exited even quicker.

Those taking part ranged in age from seven to senior and were dressed as everything from sumo wrestlers to bananas and beyond.

One of those who spent the most time in the water was 48-year-old Summerland publisher Michael Berrisford.

“It’s a shock to the body but a reboot to the brain,” he said looking longingly towards the bonfires burning further up shore. “But I highly recommend it, it’s great way to start the new year.”

With 18 polar bear swims under his belt, Berrisford feels it is the second one that is most difficult to talk yourself into.

“The first one you’re naive, but the second one you know what’s coming,” he said.

Just prior to the countdown, eight-year-old Emma Selsky of Summerland was gearing up for her first polar bear swim.

“I just thought I would do it for fun. It’s a good way to start the new year, but I’m looking forward to having a hot dog,” she said.

The free hot dogs, hot chocolate and participant T-shirts were supplied by the Kinsmen who had a number of club members looking after a variety of duties, including a safety diver who was in the water during the swim.

“The club’s mandate is service to the community, there’s nothing we gain financially, it’s just a matter of giving back and making sure the people of Summerland have a great event to come to,” said Kinsmen’s Ben Forbes. “People absolutely enjoy this and what I’m finding is that we have more and more young kids coming out who are under 10 and going in the water with their mom and dad. We have older people as well, so there are a lot of repeat clients.”

When asked if he ever goes in the water himself, the club spokesman replied: “Absolutely, ah, not,” although he added should his name be called he would be up to the task.

“The point of us being here today is to renew and regenerate and to have a good time so I guess there is no real point to it,” said Forbes with a laugh. “We’ll bring in the new year and hopefully shake off the old from last night.”

Fourteen-year-old Grace McDonald’s father Gary, is also a club member and was the reason she first got interested in the swim.

“This is my third or fourth one so far and it’s freezing but I look forward to it,” she said. “It just gives you a jump start with the cold water and I think I’m going to keep doing it until I get too old.”

Penticton’s Keisha McLean has taken part for the last few years, although she still admits to having second thoughts when this time of year rolls around.

“I keep saying I’m not going to do it, I’m not going to do it but last year we got the team together and we won a trophy so I can’t stop now,” said McLean.


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