There’s nothing like a cool dip in the ocean to start the New Year off right.
The annual Jan. 1 polar bear swim organized by the Crofton Fire Department didn’t happen due to COVID, but nine people encompassing a wide range of ages and experience showed up at the Crofton boat launch anyway to take the plunge. There were veterans who’ve been there and done this many times and others giving it a whirl for the first time.
With the onset of COVID and vaccinations still limited at that point, last year’s informal event brought out six people.
Crofton Fire Department member Lee Burridge wasn’t about to see his 32-year string of Crofton polar bear swims come to an end despite it being only the second time with snow on the ground that he can remember.
One thing his experience has shown him is to be prepared for anything.
“We had one really windy one,” Burridge recalled. “The dock almost broke apart.”
This one obviously went ahead with rare snow still on the ground, but only a marginal difference in water temperature, he added.
“It only drops about two degrees. Getting out will be cold. The water doesn’t change much.”
Lee’s son Brent Burridge, 27, who lives in Victoria, has been coming to the event for at least 10 years. “This is the coldest it’s been in a while,” he conceded.
One word came to mind for Amy Cooke-Yarborough, 22, of Nanaimo, Brent’s girlfriend. “Cold,” she chuckled.
“I do it with my family.”
Gabor Horvath is never one to shy away from adventure and he was there with bells on again, although not literally.
“It’s definitely a more Canadian feeling,” he said, looking around at the surroundings.
“I’m an oldtimer. The bright side is the water is warmer than the air.”
Horvath tried to corral a mystery youngster who showed up at the last minute and only dipped his toes in the water before running back up the hill. Horvath thought the kid needed to do a bit more than that to make it count.
A former employee of Horvath’s, Jordan Hepburn, was also there. He was the first to arrive at the site and dunked in right up to his neck for a swim at the start.
The Careys were represented by three generations, with Wendy and grandson Aidan both doing the event for the first time.
“I loved it, I’m doing it every year,” said Wendy, 65. “That’s my goal.”
Her impressions of the first one will be long-lasting. “It was still cold,” she said. “You feel it on your feet and hands, for sure.”
For a first-timer, Aidan, 7, made a grand entrance with a big splash in the water.
“He really went for it,” laughed Wendy. “He didn’t think about how cold it was going to be.”
There was absolutely no apprehension at the start by Aidan. “I’m feeling good,” he said.
Now he’ll probably wind up doing it with grandma again every year as well.
Richard Carey is never one to pass up an opportunity like this, but almost did.
“I always want to, but there’s always that question,” he said.
Mom had something to do with rallying Richard.
“I wasn’t coming,” Richard conceded until he got the call, but he’s always glad he did at the end.
“It’s a true polar bear swim this year,” Richard observed.
Wendy also shook off a little initial hesitation, but neither cold, nor snow, nor COVID was going to curb her determination.
“I almost didn’t, but I thought you’ve got to live – especially now with COVID,” she reasoned.