University of Victoria students Rhyanna Bunniss

Ocean swim fundraiser grows

Mustard Seed funraiser and ocean swim Sunday 1 p.m. at Gyro Park in Saanich

Under the low winter sun at Gyro Park beach, the ocean radiates a definite chill. Yet, Rhyanna Bunniss and Alexander MacDougall storm the water with abandon, diving in for a short swim.

The two 20-year-old University of Victoria students emerge from Cadboro Bay laughing, ignoring the full-body shock as veteran swimmers in Victoria’s notoriously crisp ocean.

On a stormy day in December, Bunniss and MacDougall were part of the second Victory Ocean Swim, which saw about 30 hearty souls brave the water to raise food and money for the Mustard Seed.

The trick, Bunniss says, is not hesitating halfway into the water. “It was all or nothing. It was icy – an icy shock to the system,” she says, referring to the Dec. 9 swim.

She once did a winter swim off the coast of Cornwall in her native England, but Victoria is a different level of suffering. “I did an ocean swim in the snow, but it doesn’t compare to here. This is freezing.”

“I’m originally from Yellowknife so I’m used to the cold already. But it’s still shocking and a good experience,” MacDougall adds. “I don’t think I’d muster up the courage to do this on my own.”

The Victory event aims to support the Mustard Seed, but also to encourage more people to enjoy the ocean off Victoria. Organizer Jasmin Gerwien says for her, the cold water is the only consistent remedy for chronic neck and back pain.

“When I swim in the ocean, that’s when it goes away. I come out pain free and rejuvenated,” says Gerwien. “When it’s rainy and cold, I force myself to go swimming, then I am able to do some work.

“I’m not sure what I would do if I hadn’t discovered it. The health benefit is amazing. For me it works as an antidepressant.”

Gerwien organized her first fundraiser ocean swim on Nov. 11 in memory of her mother, which drew 11 swimmers. The December event nearly tripled the participation, thanks to a contingent of UVic students who had been doing daily polar bear dips in Cadboro Bay.

“It was mostly running in and out,” MacDougall said. “By the end we were doing some swimming.

“It think (the event) is a great idea. I’d never heard of (ocean swimming) here before. It’s awesome.”

For Sunday’s swim, Gerwien has been lobbying Saanich and Oak Bay police and firefighters, among other friends and colleagues. The response from business and emergency responders has been gratifying – nobody says no to donating or participating somehow, Gerwien says.

“I’ve converted a lot of people to the cause,” she says.

“Everyone who goes in tells me they feel amazing and invigorated. Seeing people united for a good cause is rewarding.”

Oak Bay police Const. Julie Chanin plans to bring her five-year-old son to support the cause, and to show him that people do swim in Victoria’s ocean.

“I did a polar bear swim 10 years ago, nothing recently,” Chanin says. “It difficult to say if we’re going to show up and support the event, or be a swimmer. It’s a good community event though – good, clean cold fun.”

The Victory Ocean Swim in support of the Mustard Seed is Feb. 17, at Gyro Park, with the swim starting 1 p.m. sharp. People are asked to bring non-perishable food items or cash for the Mustard Seed.

See victoryoceanswim.com for more information.

editor@saanichnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

Federal government actions hurt Sooke hatchery fundraising efforts

Funding denial comes on the heels of fishing closures

SD62 student places third in province-wide French competition

12-year-old Sasha Zandieh won third with a speech on poet Pablo Neruda

Jesse Roper learns to create fire in the wild, in Sacred Knowledge web series

Ragnarock Studios production shares primitive skills with Islanders

Island athlete goes from hoop dreams to icy track

Cyrus Gray hopes to punch his ticket to Olympics in bobsleigh

Oak Bay researcher’s Canadian English dictionary goes to print

How an unknown American hobbyist sparked a Canadian dictionary

Police release photos of suspect in daytime sex assault at Vancouver woman’s home

A young woman, in hers 20s, was followed home by the man, before he violently attacked her inside

Raptors beat Bucks 100-94 to advance to franchise’s first-ever NBA Finals

Leonard has 27 points, 17 boards to lead Toronto past Milwaukee

Third person charged in death of B.C. teen Bhavkiran Dhesi

Inderdeep Kaur Deo facing charge of accessory after the fact to murder

Kamloops girl, 9, recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning now out of ICU

Her mother who was sleeping in the same tent with her did not survive

‘I think he’s still alive’: B.C. mom pleads for help finding son last seen a month ago

Family offering $5,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Tim Delahaye

New poll suggests one-third don’t want politicians to wear religious symbols

Local politicians shouldn’t be allowed to wear hijabs, crucifixes or turbans on the job, survey suggests

Raptors fans far from home adjust plans to watch pivotal playoff game

Raptors currently lead the playoff series 3-2, and a win Saturday would vault them into NBA finals

PHOTOS: First responders in Fernie rescue baby owl who fell from nest

The baby owl’s inability to fly back to its nest prompted a rescue by first responders

Five takeaways from the Court of Appeal ruling on B.C.’s pipeline law

It’s unclear how many tools are left in B.C.’s toolbox to fight the project

Most Read