A flock of brave people dive into the ocean at Whiffin Spit for the 2008 Polar Bear Swim.

A flock of brave people dive into the ocean at Whiffin Spit for the 2008 Polar Bear Swim.

Welcome New Year with frigid ocean swim

The Otter Point Volunteer Fire Department is bringing back their Polar Bear Swim for its 21st year

The Otter Point Volunteer Fire Department is hosting their 21st Annual Polar Bear Swim on Jan. 1 for anyone who dares to jump into the ocean on a frigid winter day.

The event which sees dozens of people participate every year, started as a challenge between four Otter Point firefighters in 1992 at Young Lake.

“We had the warden’s blessing to go ahead and be foolish on New Year’s Day and it went very well so we decided to make it an annual event,” said Dave Gollmer, Otter Point volunteer firefighter.

“Unfortunately, the second year the lake was frozen so we had a true polar bear event. We actually had to break the ice to do the swim.”

A few lacerations and bruises later, the firefighters decided it would be more suitable to host their private Polar Bear Swim challenge in more temperate waters.

“After the ice incident we decided we needed a change of venue, and the next year we decided we’d do a salt water swim because of the more consistent water temperature and the less chance of ice,” Gollmer said.

In 1995, the firefighters hosted their chilling challenge at Whiffin Spit, which gathered the attention of curious spectators who would later join in on the fun.

“Whiffin Spit was very busy that day, and it turns out, when you’re involved with the public the public want to get involved,” Gollmer said.

The event has been open to the public ever since, growing in participation each year, from seven in 1995 to 71 in 2012. Due to large participation numbers, the fire department has requested the prescence of the Sooke Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue team for safety reasons.

According to Gollmer, the energy and enthusiasm from the public has cemented the Polar Bear Swim as a Sooke tradition. The event has seen tourists from around the world, and participants who dress up in costume of their own initiative.

“It started off as a challenge and grew into a tradition,” he said. “I basically see a whole bunch of people living real large, basically saying ‘It’s a new year, bring it on.”

This year’s Polar Bear Swim will take place at Whiffin Spit on Jan. 1, with a brass cannon start at 12 p.m.

Everyone of all ages is welcome and the event is free.

 

Just Posted

Deep Cove Elementary School principal Shelley Hardcastle (right) and vice-principal Mary Kaercher help to restock Reay Creek with fish – in this case, coho fry – after a recent bleach spill killed hundreds of fish. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary School helps to restock Sidney’s Reay Creek

Restocking followed bleach spill that killed hundreds of fish in creek

A new report pegs the annual cost of hiring a third party to monitor use of pickleball courts in North Saanich at $12,000. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich could end up hiring third party to monitor pickleball courts

Other options up for consideration include use of cameras and timed locks

Co-creatorsAdrianna Hatton and Malcolm McKenzie stand next to the little free library revealed Sunday at 9710 First St. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Literary crowd helps opens little free library in Sidney

Located at 9710 First St., the book sharing box features original art and reclaimed wood

The barred owl is the most likely to be spotted in the south Island. (Ann Nightingale photo)
Barred owls dominate Greater Victoria owl-scape

Western screech owl population decimated, partly due to barred owls

Between June 1 and 7, 168 net unconditional sales were made for properties in the VREB region. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria home sales slightly behind last June’s pace

Benchmark value of single-family home in Greater Victoria tops $1 million

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read