Lots of spectators checked out the Crofton polar bear swim from above the boat ramp. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Taking the plunge

Crofton polar bear swimmers start the new year in refreshing fashion

Splish, splash, they were taking the plunge.

With several squeals, shrieks and hollers, about 50 hearty adults and children made the trek into the water at the Crofton boat ramp New Year’s Day for the annual Crofton Fire Department polar bear swim.

Conditions were about as ideal as you could expect at this time of the year, with a sunny sky and the air temperature hovering around 10 degrees Celsius for the noon start.

Those who were daring enough stayed in the water for as little as a few seconds up to many long minutes by the likes of Holly Mathews, fire department member Lee Burridge and others. They were supported by a large crowd at the boat ramp and the overhead trestle toward the Salt Spring Island ferry by more than 100 people.

“It’s a refreshing way to start the year,” said Mathews, 16, of Crofton.

She kept swimming around for more than 30 minutes last year and didn’t emerge back on land until after 15 minutes this time.

“It’s really not bad,” Mathews noted. “I just do it for fun. I’ve done crazy stuff like this my whole life.”

“I’m training to be a lifeguard,” she added of her love for the water at any time of the year.

Richard Carey, who was accompanied on the adventure by daughter Emily Carey and her cousin Danaya Brown, was the best dressed in his Viking attire.

“It was wonderful, I just moved back,” said returning Croftonite Richard via Mackenzie.

“It was a family tradition, used to dress up and come down every year.”

Emily Carey and Brown, both Crofton Elementary School students, did the event for the first time and were smiling at the end when talking about the experience and providing representation among the younger age groups to match the adult participation.

Veteran polar bear swimmer Burridge was soaking in the atmosphere. “Actually, it’s one of the mildest ones we’ve ever had,” he said.

Organizer Rick Smith of the Crofton Fire Department marvelled at the turnout that he estimated to be one of the best ever.

April Foster of Crofton did the event for the second year.

“It was awesome, it’s refreshing, I love it,” she enthused.

Jason MacLeod was easily noticeable in the crowd for wearing one of the most colourful costumes, a rainbow tutu. He was joined by daughter Safire, 6, and his other half, Savanna.

“I did it when I was three at Shawnigan Lake,” declared Safire.

“It felt really nice,” added Savanna. “I’m a veteran to polar bear swims.”

As young as Safire is and others in her age group, there was an even younger swimmer in the event – Erisana Gerrard, just three years old.

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The young, the middle aged, the old and everybody in between get ready for the Crofton polar bear swim. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Anticipation builds among the spectators as the Crofton polar bear swim start approaches. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Holly Mathews, 16, of Crofton gets ready to take the plunge. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Richard Carey and April Foster of Crofton are psyched about the polar bear swim. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Danaya Brown, Emily Carey and Richard Carey are among those who are first in the water for the Crofton polar bear swim New Year’s Day. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Into the water they go at high noon New Year’s Day for the Crofton polar bear swim at the Crofton boat ramp. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Holly Mathews, 16, takes a serious swim in the water during the Crofton polar bear swim. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Some swimmers head out farther while others retreat quickly to shore during the early stages of the Crofton polar bear swim. (Photo by Don Bodger)

It’s cool to be a Crofton polar bear swimmer. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Holly Mathews has space all to herself in the Crofton polar bear swimmer. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Lee Burridge enjoys his refreshing dip. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Jason MacLeod of Duncan came to the Crofton polar bear swim dressed in colourful attire. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Lee Burridge decides to casually head back to shore in the Crofton polar bear swim. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Crofton polar bear swim is all sorts of fun for Holly Mathews. (Photo by Don Bodger)

The MacLeod family heads to shore after the Crofton polar bear swim, with Jason readily visible in his colorful suit while Savanna packs out young Safire, 6, who’s all bundled up. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Crofton Fire Department’s Rick Smith hands out the medals. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Richard Carey holds his medal high as part of the best dressed Vikings group. (Photo by Don Bodger)

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