Islanders take New Year's Polar plunge

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The young girl and her friend came bounding out of the icy water and she was screaming “I will never do that again” as she wrapped herself in a warm towel.

A swimmer crawls out of the cold waters of the Charlottetown harbour and onto the ice after he took a dip during the annual polar bear swim Wednesday.

They were one of several dozen or more hardy souls (some might say weird) who got up early New Years Day and jumped into the frigid waters of the Charlottetown harbor. Just for something to do.

Before they could even take the plunge a large hole had to be chopped in the solid ice. So with large chunks of ice floating around them, the swimmers entered the water two or three at a time due to the small hole. Some plunged right in while others gingerly walked to the edge of the hole and slipped into the icy water. But they all had one thing in common. They did not stay in very long. One dip up to the chin and then a mad scramble to make their way onto solid ice and then a run to where they left their warm and dry clothes.

One of those who took the dip on Wednesday was Jason Mosher of Charlottetown. His first swim was four years ago that he did in honour of his late father-in-law and to raise money for the fight against cancer. This year as a member of the Parkdale/Sherwood Lions he will be one of 12 Lions who will take the plunge to raise money for the fight against multiple sclerosis. He said that so far they have raised about $2,000. He also talked his brother and sister into doing the swim.

As a veteran of four swims Mosher does have some secrets.

“I run in backwards…I don’t dive in so I don’t hit my face on anything and as soon as I get out I peel off my sneakers, put wool socks on, take my shorts off, put gym pants on, a wool sweater, touque and mitts and I am all set to go.”

The swim is advised for people with no health problems and being a weight lifter, Mosher, 40-years-old, has no concerns that way. In fact, he finds it “quite invigorating…it’s like taking about 10 Red Bull.”

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This was the 24th polar swim and it is not first time a hole had to be chopped through the ice, said Jason Lee, the unofficial volunteer organizer of the event.

“It’s not the first time we have had to chop a hole through the ice, but it has been very rare and we have been quite lucky the last couple of years with no ice whatsoever, but this year we are back to chopping a hole.”

The swim dates back to 1974 when Don Love, a roadrunner at the time along with fellow runner, Ken Campbell and some friends got the idea and it has been an annual event ever since. Some swims have had 200 swimmers, Lee said.

The event has no structured organizing committee and no registration fee, but common sense is required. Young children are not encouraged and others have to realize it is “quite a shock to the system” and bear that in mind when contemplating participating.

“Anybody who wants to go for a swim in the Charlottetown harbour are welcome to do so on New Years Day,” he said.

Lee has been involved as the volunteer organizer for the last 14 years and this was his last swim in that capacity so he is putting the word out to anyone who wants to “take up the torch and organize this little event for next year” to contact him.

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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