New year begins with a splash

An estimated 150 people brave the icy waters of Okanagan Lake for polar bear swim

Participants in the 27th Summerland Kinsmen Polar Bear dip quickly exit the water at Sunoka Beach on New Year’s Day Sunday. Organizers estimate about 150 people took part in the event to ring in 2012.

Reaching the half-century milestone is not necessarily cause for celebration for some people, but don’t tell Summerland’s Linnea Good.

The singer/songwriter brought in the year of her 50th birthday with a stylish splash Sunday at the 27th Summerland Kinsmen Club Polar Bear dip at Sunoka Beach.

Dressed in her fiery-red evening gown, Good joined about 150 other brave souls who took the plunge into Okanagan Lake as a fun(?) way to ring in 2012.

“This is actually my third polar bear swim, but this year is particularly important and I wore the dress because I wanted to make fun of the elegance I thought 50 was supposed to have,” she said afterwards. “I mean how do you celebrate turning such a huge number, a number you never imagined in your whole life you would ever turn.

“It’s a way to start the year off and bring on number 50. And no, I don’t feel bad at all. I just want 50 to know that I’m in charge of it, it’s not in charge of me.”

Her unique taste in apparel also caught the attention of the  judges who voted her best in show when it came to costumed participants.

“I didn’t do it to compete, but to win a trophy on the first day of the 2012 cracks me up and it bodes really well for the rest of the year,” said Good, who added her only resolution is to better appreciate family and friends in the coming 12 months.

She admitted having second thoughts about going in during the countdown but found herself at the front of the large wave of humanity heading to the water with no turning back.

Her husband David Jonsson was along for moral support and to shoot the video they plan to put up on YouTube.

“I thought it was great, and if I wasn’t such a wimp I would have gone myself. Maybe in Hawaii yes, but not in the lake in January,” he said. “Linnea is a real go-for-it person. I’m a little more laid back, but I do get pulled along in the wake sometimes.”

Dressed in his Santa outfit, Penticton’s Derek McGregor was one of the very few double dippers briefly making a second trip into the lake at the urging of those on the shore.

“It’s just a lot of fun with everybody getting up and doing something crazy to start the new year,” he said. “And from where he (Santa) is from, this isn’t that cold.”

Kinsmen member Frederik Numsen, who helped organize the event, credited in large part the balmy 1 C temperature and a lack of snow, wind and ice for the jump in numbers.

“It was perfect and we didn’t have to push anybody out of the parking lot because there wasn’t any snow,” said Numsen during his post-swim debriefing. “I think there were a lot of people sitting on the fence, and with the milder weather they decided ‘let’s do it.’”

Members of the service club staffed the barbecues and started fires in the beach-front pits to help warm participants as most exited the water as quickly or quicker than they went in.

Volunteer divers stood by in the water during the dip and paramedics were also on scene in case of emergency.