New Year’s Day swimmers venture into the Juan de Fuca Strait for the annual Jan. 1 polar bear swim at Taylor Beach on Metchosin. Due to algae blooms in both Thetis and Elk lakes

Chill seekers heading to Metchosin for Jan. 1 swim, but nowhere else

New Years a time for icy beginnings at 28th annual polar bear event

Baby it’s cold outside.It’ll be cold both outside and in the waters off Taylor Beach come New Year’s Day.

Chill seekers can take the plunge in the Juan de Fuca Strait on Jan. 1 for a polar bear swim steeped in 28 years of Metchosin history.

“The first year was just myself, my wife, a couple of friends and my (son),” said District Coun. Andy MacKinnon. “The last number of years we’ve had lots of people who will join us for a dip in the ocean. (And friends and neighbours) join us after the swim for hot spiced apple juice.”

MacKinnon’s personal New Year’s Day tradition started even before he moved to the rural farming community. He took his first polar bear plunge in Metchosin in 1989, but he’s participated in Jan. 1 swims for more than 40 years, he said.

While some of his friends like it because it guarantees nothing worse can happen throughout the year, he prefers a more positive mindset.

“I just find it a delightful way to start off the new year. It’s just a fun group activity and everyone enjoys it. I like leading the run and getting the body temperature up before you plunge into the icy cold ocean,” MacKinnon said.

“It’s also a fun family activity. We have had babes in arms who have come into the ocean, with lots of kids and people in their 80s participating in the swim as well.”

Last year, approximately 40 people took the plunge, with many more content to watch from the shore. The event was moved from Witty’s Beach to Taylor Beach in recent years, as the water is deeper closer to the shore and requires a shorter run to engulf one’s entire body.

As a warm-up for the swim, a six-kilometre run and three-km walk to the beach start at approximately 1 p.m., both ending up at Taylor Beach in time for swimmers to take to the sea at 2 p.m. The starting points and times were yet to be determined by the Gazette’s press time, but interested parties can call MacKinnon for details at 250-478-8232.

“I would encourage people to attend an event in their community and would welcome all Metchosin folks to the event and back to our house afterwards. (And) instead of wishing a Happy New Year, I will wish them a Happy Hogmanay,” he said, quoting the Scottish word for the last day of the year.

alim@goldstreamgazette.com

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