Hundreds of intrepid Rupertites braved the gusty wind and rain for the annual polar bear swim on Jan. 1, 2020. The event was hosted at the Rushbrook docks by the Rotary Club of Prince Rupert and attracted eager participants from as far away as Germany and New Zealand.
Foreign exchange student, Rebecca Jansen, arrived in Prince Rupert in August on a year high school exchange. Eager to take the plunge into Canadian culture and participate in the chilly tradition, Jansen stated,“It’s pretty crazy. It’s an adventure, but it’s a once in lifetime thing to do a polar bear swim in Canada.”
The event ran from approximately 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on New Year’s day. Over three hundred free hot dogs were devoured by 12:30 p.m. and washed down by hot chocolate. Individuals and teams were encouraged to dress up in costumes to experience the full fun of the event. This year’s theme for the Rotary team was elves. In the past they have dressed as sharks, zombies, cowboys, and superheroes. Also spotted this year was a Santa, a Murlock video game character and a fuzzy bat.
Fire, Police and the Search and Rescue Services (SARS) were on site to advise and assist wary water waders in case of any emergency – of which there were none. SARS offered advice to new Rupert resident originally from N.Z., Emmiline Dawson, as she contemplated the chilly dip from the end of the dock, “The Search and Rescue were great and showed me the best place to jump in from the dock. Hey, I survived! So, it’s a bonus to have them here,” she jokingly explained as she hurried to warm up after her polar plunge. “It’s totally worth it and I would do it again next year.”
Carol Bulford is a long time Rotarian. She was excited to submerge herself in the experience of her eighth polar bear swim. “It’s a great way to start the year. It’s something crazy to do but you’re only cold for a couple of hours, then you have the rest of the year ahead of you,” she laughed.
When asked how many years the polar bear swim had been held, Rotarian, Barb Gruber replied “It’s been so long with so many that I do not even know.” Gruber explained that she believes Rotary is a wonderful organization with dedicated volunteers. There were approximately 30 volunteers to enable the success of this year’s event. This sentiment was seconded by fellow Rotarian Bev Killbery, talking about the polar bear swim, “It’s a fantastic way of giving back to the community. We couldn’t do it without the generous donations from local businesses,” she said.
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