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P.E.I. Polar Bear swimmers get ready to take the icy plunge Jan. 1

Brave souls make a mad dash into the frigid waters of the Charlottetown Friday during the annual polar bear swim.
Brave souls make a mad dash into the frigid waters of the Charlottetown during a previous polar bear swim. -Guardian file photo

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Over the years, some hearty Islanders have taken to ringing in the New Year with a refreshing dip in the icy Charlottetown Harbour.

And theyll get a chance to do it again in a few days when the annual P.E.I. Polar Bear Dip charity event returns Jan. 1.

This year, the Charlottetown Food Bank will be the charity of choice. Participants and supporters are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item or a monetary donation to the site the day of the swim.

Cheryl Paynter will take the reigns this year and lead the countdown to the plunge.

Paynter, who has participated in the dip for five years, took over this year for Jason Mosher, who has led the event for the past several years.

“Jason was going away this holiday and put out a call for help. About 10 days before Christmas he still didn’t have anybody. I didn’t want to see it go away, so I stepped up.”

The dip will take place at the little beach adjacent to the Charlottetown Yacht Club at 10 a.m. sharp, with people gathering beforehand where there will be music playing and a clock counting down the seconds.

“People try to acclimatize to the cold air a few minutes before,” Paynter said. “Then the anxiety level builds from there and we start counting down very loudly from 10. You’ll see people holding hands and just charging in the water.”

“I would just invite people, even if they don’t want to do the dip themselves, to come out and support and cheer on those people who are. You do not have to do the dip to do the donate part to the food bank, so come on down, applaud people in and out of the water and just enjoy the view.”
-Cheryl Paynter

For first-time dippers, Paynter suggests wearing an old pair of sneakers to protect feet from ice and rocks along the beach, and to have warm towels, blankets and/or housecoats ready as they make their way out of the water.

She also had one more piece of advice for those brave enough to tackle the frigid water.

“Get in and don’t stop running until you’re under. As soon as you stop, you’re done.”

The forecast for New Year’s Day is around -20 C with wind chill, something Paynter hopes doesn’t deter would-be plungers. She also said that sort of temperature isn’t something one gets used to.

“No, you don’t, you just suck it up. Put it this way, you probably wouldn’t do it alone, but in a crowd of people, you do it.”

At the end of the day, it’s about having fun and raising money for a good cause, she said.

“I would just invite people, even if they don’t want to do the dip themselves, to come out and support and cheer on those people who are. You do not have to do the dip to do the donate part to the food bank, so come on down, applaud people in and out of the water and just enjoy the view.”

 

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