Ronald Laidman has been jumping into the cold water each Jan. 1 since 1981, when he was 16. (Submitted photo)

Ronald Laidman has been jumping into the cold water each Jan. 1 since 1981, when he was 16. (Submitted photo)

Qualicum Beach man marks 43rd consecutive polar bear swim

Ronald Laidman has been jumping into the chilly water each Jan. 1 since 1981

A Qualicum Beach man celebrated his 43rd consecutive polar bear swim on New Year’s Day.

Ronald Laidman has been jumping into the cold water each Jan. 1 since 1981, when he was 16.

Most of those swims were in Vancouver’s English Bay, but he has continued the tradition since moving to the Island five years ago, including a frigid jump into the waters at Parksville Community Park Beach this year.

The weather conditions vary a lot from year to year, so Laidman was thankful for the relatively warm and sunny weather on New Year’s Day 2023.

“As long as it’s not raining, it’s easy,” Laidman said. “The problem with the rain is that you just never get warm. You get sort of chilled to the bone before you even go into the water.”

He recalled stepping out of the water onto a sheet of ice in English Bay one cold and snowy year.

“You couldn’t feel anything,” he said.

It was no picnic last year either, when Laidman was the only person willing to jump in the water at a small beach access in Lighthouse Country.

READ MORE: Hundreds take plunge in Parksville’s Polar Bear Splash 2023

“It was just crazy,” he said. “The waves were up over my head, it was windy, there was snow on the beach.”

Several other people had gathered at the water, but decided they’d rather not go in.

“They were kind of nervous about me still being in there. They were yelling at me to come out,” Laidman said with a laugh.

He considers the polar dips good for his health and believes one episode, years ago, may have chased off a case of the flu.

“I could hardly make it down there, and I remember when I came out of the water, I actually felt like it had shocked it out of my system,” Laidman said.

Rather than running in and immediately running back to shore, he said he prefers to swim out as far as he can and tread water, while the rest of the crowd ventures in.

Laidman added he is not a big fan of swimming in pools, but prefers the outdoors and the open waters of the ocean or a river.

His recommendation for first-timers? Just run into the water.

“Don’t do any wading in. Just get it all done. Get in in a hurry. Get your head wet.”

@kevinf_1988_
kevin.forsyth@pqbnews.com

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