Unlike a snow-covered beach in past years, the beach at Sun Oka park was mostly clear on Jan. 1 for the annual polar bear dip.
“It’s better than it has been in the past, that’s for sure. Because in the past you even had snow, some really cool feet. At least the wind is calm and it’s a reasonable day,” said Blair Gillingham, president of the Summerland Kinsmen Club, which organizes the annual event, now in its 34th year. “And we have nice warm fires.”
Gillingham admitted he hadn’t checked the water temperature.
“No, but it’s cold. It’s definitely polar bearesque,” he said.
Monica Wagner was visiting from Los Angeles and taking part in the frigid New Year’s Day plunge, along with her sister, Angela Chenier.
“I convinced my sister … No, I didn’t convince her, I said, I’m doing this,” said Wagner, adding that her sister responded by saying she might want to also. “And now she’s been panicking,” said Wagner. “It is just something that I’ve watched for years and thought ‘I’d like to do that.’”
“I told her there is nicer things you can put on your bucket list,” said Chenier.
Marilyn Moncur was another first-timer at the 2019 polar bear dip. She said she decided to do it before the weather turned cold on New Year’s Day, but decided to keep on.
“I feel I have to try, because I would feel very disappointed if I didn’t do it, but I am not sure how far I can get in,” said Moncur. “It might just be up to the ankles.”
Gillingham said the Summerland dip has been going so long, it has a reputation.
“People are traveling specifically to this beach, to Sun Oka, for this polar bear dip,” said Gillingham. “Last year, there were people who were coming here and then going to Peachland and then to Kelowna. Some people are crazy enough to do it three times in a day.”