It’s a wet and wild way to ring in the new year. A crowd of hearty souls turns out each year and plunges into the frigid waters of Parksville Bay. Some wear costumes while others have gone naked for the annual Regional District of Nanaimo Polar Bear Swim. According to measurements taken by Environment Canada in a couple of locations in Georgia Strait, the average ocean temperature in these parts is about 6 degrees Celsius.
Last year between 80 and 100 people of all ages waded into the chilly water with at least another hundred friends, relatives and spectators standing by to offer encouragement and towels.
Set to begin at high noon Sunday, Jan. 1, the 21st annual New Year’s plunge at Parksville Bay has become a popular tradition in Oceanside.
A Parksville family who has been plunging into the ocean for the Polar Bear dip for the past seven years will be on hand for their annual New Year’s day ritual. Elaine Shworan said they do it every year and they have certain rules they follow.
“The rule is you have to get completely wet … submerged head to toe,” she stated.
Shworan said last year it was the first time the entire family participated and she along with her husband Craig, her nine-year-old son Jimmy and three-year-old daughter McKinley just went for it.
“It feels really good. It is refreshing and you feel like you are washing away the old year. Now it is a family tradition … I love it,” she declared.
She said that last year McKinley was hesitant to join in, but once the countdown started she jumped right in. Shworan admitted her daughter is only four years old so she may or may not do it this year — but will be prepared.
Because the safety of the swimmers is paramount members of the Arrowsmith Search and Rescue water rescue team will also be in the water to provide assistance — not to mention encouragement — for anyone who may get into difficulty.
Firefighters and first responders from the Parksville Fire Department will also be present to provide any necessary medical aid on shore.
Hot beverages and snacks will be available on a donation basis. Registration gets underway at 11:30 a.m. the plunge takes place at noon.