Swimmers to participate in Polar Bear Dip

Summerland Kinsmen Club organizes icy plunge on New Year’s Day

For some brave Summerlanders, the new year will start with an icy swim in Okanagan Lake as the Summerland Kinsmen Club holds its annual Polar Bear Dip.

The swim, at Sunoka Beach, will begin at noon on New Year’s Day.

Blair Gillingham, president of the Kinsmen Club, said 100 to 150 swimmers are expected to participate this year and between 300 and 400 will be at the beach observing the quick, chilly swim.

The service club will have prizes for costumes for the best male, best female, oldest, youngest and best team in the swim.

Gillingham, who has participated as a swimmer in the past, suggests participants have good footwear for icy, snowy conditions.

“Speaking from experience, flip-flops are not optimal,” he said. “My flip-flop went sideways.”

He added that the participants should also bring clothing that is easy to put on after the swim.

He said getting dressed after the chilly plunge is difficult, as fingers, hands, toes and knees do not want to flex.

While the water is cold, he said the event is a good way to start the new year.

“It’s not really all that bad,” he said. “It was probably the best of the worst feelings I felt on Jan. 1.”

Fires will be set up on the beach and hot chocolate will be available for the participants.

The event also serves as a fundraiser for the service club. This year, the Summerland Kinsmen Club purchased hampers for needy families within the community. The club also raises funds for other community initiatives.

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