You would think that after doing the polar bear dip once, or even twice, that would be sufficient enough times to cross it off my bucket list of “things to do before I die”. And yet, I found myself agreeing once again in December to sign up for the 2017 Polar Bear Dip. Three times crazy, yes. But all the fundraising proceeds go towards Habitat For Humanity GTA, a wonderful charity helping to address the issue of affordable housing in our city. Thanks to my supporters, I raised over $485 for this cause, and that’s a downright amazing feeling I can get behind again.
Toronto Sunnyside Beach. January 1, 2017, 20 minutes to dip time (11:40am).
The sun was shining brightly. The temperature was downright balmy at +2°C, with only the slightest of wind blowing. I wasn’t nervous at all in the days and hours leading up to the event. Compared to the weather conditions of the last two years, this should be a piece of cake, right?
Unfortunately, my friend A, the instigator and leader of our team, was knocked out by a bad cold and couldn’t join us that day. Without our”Dipping in the Six” team glue, the other members and I ended up scattered through the rest of the crowd of dippers.
Five minutes to dip time
I start peeling off the layers of coats and clothes covering my skin from the elements. Suddenly the day doesn’t feel so balmy after all. There is no fooling your body about being in the Caribbean when you are standing in your bathing suit in +2°C temperature. Shivering commences and your butt cheeks and thighs clench in a failed attempt to save some of the heat escaping. I make my way to the dip entrance area.
Then after a couple of minutes, my body seems to be confused about whether it needs to shiver, or whether it actually is a nice day. There’s not a lot of time to contemplate, however, because I hear over the loudspeaker the countdown.
12 o’clock noon
And suddenly people are charging forward into the lake. I follow at a modest pace behind, until suddenly *splash* my feet are in the water.
IT FEELS JUST AS COLD AS THE PAST 2 YEARS!
My brain is urging body to go in further. My body is trying to rebel, as it’s hard-wired self-preservation instincts go into overload. Icy pricks are stabbing up my legs as I splash in deeper. I get to waist deep, turn to look at my dear hubby on the shoreline taking pictures, and dunk into the water to my shoulders.
It must have been the fastest dunk ever as he missed getting pictures of me more fully submerged. At this point, my body won the fight of self preservation over my brain’s desire for photographic preservation. GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT!! I hoofed it out of the water to where my kids were holding down our square patch of beach. Numb hands sought out my fuzzy bathrobe, and clumsily pried the water shoes off my numb feet.
And then a couple of minutes after that, a sense of euphoria settles in. The day does actually feel quite balmy after all. It’s like the dip caused a physical reset. I’m hoping it lasts, to clear away this unsettled feeling of melancholy I’ve had in the last several weeks.
As always, many thanks to my dear husband who is my main support crew and photographer. He is supportive each year of this endeavor. Also thanks to my kids for putting up with this each New Year’s Day, and doing their part being cute. Will I do it again next year? I would be surprised if I didn’t. It seems like this is a part of who I am now, a New Year’s Day Polar Bear Dipper, for better or for worse. Look what you’ve done, my friend A, look what you’ve done.
Some Tips for Polar Bear Dipping
- Have a support person (or crew) to help you get changed, especially if it’s really cold out because your hands will stop working. And they can hold up towels for a screen for you to change.
- I’m a proponent of wearing what ever is the easiest to get off your body afterwards. For me, that’s a bikini. Sure it exposes a bit more skin than a 1-piece, but really in those brief minutes before the dip and in the water, the extra coverage isn’t actually going to keep you any warmer. The importance is being able to take it off easily with numb hands.
- I recommend wearing water shoes. Crocs and sports sandals do have a tendency to come off under the water, and it’s not fun trying to fish around the churning water with your numb hands. I would suspect running shoes get bogged down really easily too, and be harder to take off.
- A nice fuzzy robe for just before and afterwards is soooo nice. Makes it easier to change under too.
- Bring your own hot chocolate or coffee. Even if the event provides some, it sucks if it runs out and you were hoping for some. (like my first year)