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Talk about a quick dip

Annual Polar Bear Swim starts the year off with system shock

For those brave, or crazy, enough to take the plunge, the annual Powell River Polar Bear Swim will once again be challenging the courage of those wanting to start off the new year with a chill.

The swim takes place at noon on Sunday, January 1, Willingdon Beach with registration beginning at 11:30 am. Anyone wanting to test their courage, cure a hangover, win a bet, spend time with other dippers or even to just watch the spectacle are invited to come down and join in. Last year about 80 people took part in the event.

Bill Hopkins, organizer, said he started taking polar bear swims in the 1980s in Ontario, at Lake Simcoe where organizers had to cut through two to three feet of ice with a chainsaw. Compared to that Hopkins said taking a dip here is “like a walk in the park.” Still, for those not accustomed to the chill, the Powell River plunge remains a challenge.

“For me the fun is watching ‘first timers,’” said Hopkins. “You are standing on the beach talking with people that have never taken the dip...they all ask ‘what does it feel like?’ I just tell them you have to try it to feel it; taking the dip is different for all who dare to go in.”

Hopkins said the best strategy is to get in and out as quickly as possible. Those who try to stay in the water risk hypothermia, so it’s best to get out quickly and drink something warm while standing around the bonfire or the propane heater courtesy of Relay Rental and Sales. Hopkins said some go for the liquid courage approach, but as alcohol thins the blood the result can be the opposite of the goal.

Canadian Coast Guard and St. John Ambulance will be on hand for any problems, although Hopkins said there haven’t been any in past years.

National judo champion Abby Lloyd will be the recipient of all funds raised from the sale of “I’m a Dipper” T-shirts that will be available at the swim for $15. The shirts were donated by Taws Cycle and Sports and designed by Brooks Secondary School student Roy Lim.

Also available will be Hopkins’ own BRRRRitos, with ingredients donated by Quality Foods, to help warm people up, the funds raised from which will also go to Lloyd. Prizes donated by Powell River Town Centre Mall and Powell River Recreation Complex will be handed out.