Hundreds, watched by thousands, take icy swim to welcome 2020

Thousands of people dove into 2020 with a splash at ocean beaches throughout the capital region on Wednesday.

In Sidney, thousands of onlookers watched from balconies and an oceanside walkway at the foot of Beacon Avenue as hundreds of swimmers age four to 84, fully clothed and barely clothed, ran into the ocean off Glass Beach.

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“The enthusiasm of these people is just amazing,” said Sidney town crier Kenny Podmore. “I just admire it so much.”

Podmore said the annual Peninsula Celebrations Society Polar Bear Swim just keeps getting bigger and bigger. One woman, in her early 70s, was in a gold ballroom gown, dressed as a Golden Girl superhero.

Last year, polar bear event swimmers jumped the gun when the town crier rang the bell before reading his proclamation.

Swimmers thought the ringing was the signal to dive in. You couldn’t have rehearsed the hilarity that ensued, said Podmore.

This year, to avoid a repeat, Podmore held off on ringing the bell off the top and instead counted down from 10 after reading the proclamation and a little poem:

“Just one more little tale to tell; Last year you all went in with the wrong bell; So this year I didn’t want to catch you out; With my congratulations and a little shout; So we will have our very own count down; Enjoy yourselves and please don’t drown.”

Colwood Coun. Gordie Logan was one of three city councillors to plunge into another polar bear swim at Esquimalt Lagoon. It was the second year he has participated. A nominal registration fee of $5 went to support KidSport.

“It was cold but it was fantastic,” said Logan. Mild temperatures — it was of 12 C at Victoria International Airport — and the enthusiasm of the swimmers seemed to make the dip easier, he said.

“It wasn’t as bad as I expect becuase we hyped ourselves up,” said Logan. “The beach was packed.” Logan took sage advice to plunge rather than tip-toe into the water.

Other polar bear swims included one at Taylor Beach in Metchosin and Whiffin Spit Park in Sooke.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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