Whiffin Spit will again see a host of hardy (some may say foolhardy) revellers take to the water on Jan. 1 as the Otter Point Fire Department hosts the 27th annual Polar Bear Swim.
The popular tourist destination, situated between Sooke harbour and the Strait of Juan de Fuca Strait, has long been the site of the annual swim.
“It’s a fresh start to a new year, and it’s just a lot of fun,” said Fire Chief John McCrea.
“I’m not sure why, but it’s sort of a tradition in these parts and it’s been going for a long, long time. People in Sooke and Otter Point get together to take the plunge.”
The hardy swimmers gather at Whiffin Spit at about 11:30 a.m. and at noon the cannon goes off and people just take the plunge.
While the event annually draws about 400 residents of all ages, McCrea pointed out that only about a quarter of those actually hit the water.
The rest, it seems, just come to watch the festivities and, presumably, either cheer on the swimmers or marvel at the fun-filled (and a little bit silly) activity.
“Most of the people will jump in and jump out, but we have a few who go in and try to see how long they can stay in the water. They’ll submerge themselves right to their neck and sit there with big smiles on their faces,” said McCrea with a chuckle.
“Some dress up in costumes and some come dressed for a day at the beach.
McCrae admits that he has taken the plunge, but didn’t commit to doing so this year.
“We’ll see,” he said.
As always, the swimmers and spectators alike will be treated to a steaming cup of hot chocolate and be invited to warm themselves by a bonfire, courtesy of the fire department.
Otter Point fire and the SAR service will also be on hand to deal with any medical situations that might arise, although McCrea noted that there have been no incidents in his memory where people have required assistance.
“Its just a whole lot of laughing and fun,” he said.