This Sunday, Transfer Beach will be the proverbial baptism grounds for dozens of Ladysmith residents looking for a fresh start. The traditional Polar Bear Swim will take place on the first day of 2012, and organizers say thrill seekers can expect the same bone-chilling fun as in years past.
“It’s shock therapy,” says Lois Walkling, the town’s aquatics supervisor. “They freeze out the old and get ready for the new.”
At noon, participants ranging from pre-elementary age to mid-80s will dash into the freezing cold waters of the Ladysmith Harbour. Hot chocolate, ribbons, certificates and a roaring bonfire will await them on the shore.
“It’s a fun, silly thing people do to challenge each other … some may be with a little bit of a hangover, but lots without as well,” Walkling said. “We tote is as being the first and fastest event of the year. All of our special events usually go on two to four hours — this one lasts 30 seconds.”
About 52 people attended the 2011 Polar Bear swim. The first swim was in 1988, after a group of friends including Parks and Rec employee Kate Glenn, decided to take a New Year’s dip at Transfer.
Since then, the event has grown, attracting as many as 150 participants.
As is tradition, some participants will show up in costume or in bikinis to show off their (not-so-tanned) winter tans.
“We have everybody from over-dressed to under-dressed, but definitely dressed,” Walkling said. “We have people in costumes and people just with their clothes or bathing suits on.”
The Ladysmith Coast Guard Auxiliary will be on hand to supervise the event on the water, while a certified lifeguard will keep an eye on the festivities from the shore.
This year, for the first time, there will be a donation bin for attendees wishing to make a contribution to the food bank.
Registration for the swim starts at 11 a.m. Call the community centre at 250-245-6424 for more information.