ANNUAL POLAR BEAR DIP
SUMMERLAND - About 150 hardy souls brought in the New Year with a dip in the frigid waters of Okanagan Lake near Summerland Thursday.
Participants ignored a chilly south wind pushing breakers onto Sunoka Beach to rush headlong into the lake at high noon.
Most were out within seconds of contacting the water, with the exception of Amanda Hooper of Summerland and Mark Lesinski of Penticton, who looked like they might have been on lounging in tropical waters. After spending close to seven minutes in the lake, they were requested to come out by members of Penticton Search and Rescue, who monitored the event.
Other participants included Penticton MLA Dan Ashton and his daughter Chantal, who were taking part in their fifth and third dip, respectively.
Diana McGregor of Penticton, dressed Viking-style with a pizza pan shield, came out of the water with a victory whoop.
“I’m out of breath,” she said, “it’s chilly.” She headed straight for one of three bonfires blazing on the beach
VIctoria Hodgson and Thomas and Jonathan Ziebarth all made a headlong plunge into the water, after showing up a few minutes late to be in the main body of dippers.
“A resolution is a resolution,” Hodgson said, her teeth chattering afterwards as she stood by the fire, “we promised ourselves we’d do this last night, and there wasn’t going to be any backing down.”
“I’m noticing the chill, even with my dry suit,” said Penticton Search and Rescue Technician Mike Porter, who went into the water for a second time to allow the three latecomers to go for their dip.
“The water temperature is about two degrees,” he said, “I’m guessing the air temperature is about minus 10 Celsius with the wind chill.”
Porter said eight members, including four swift water and four ground search technicians were on hand for the event.
“We’re here to help provide the participants with a safe and happy event,” he said, noting an increase in attendance this year. “We had more of a presence on social media this year, which I think helped to promote the event.``
"It was a great turnout, although it was cold with the wind,” said Darrin Oslund, Bulletin Editor for the Summerland Kinsmen. Oslund estimated 150 participants for the event this year, and a larger than normal turnout of spectators, at 350.
This was the 30th year the polar bear dip has been hosted by the Summerland Kinsmen Club.
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