A quick dip in Lake Ontario at this time of year? Are you NUTS??? But, hey, Congrats!!

By Margaret Lindsay Holton

BURLINGTON, ON December 30, 2012  Some years ago I attended an Outward Bound Leadership program  on Hurricane Island, 75 miles off the coast of Maine, in May. To this day a bitter-sweet memory reverberates to the core of my bones of our daily 2.5 mile run around the island. The daybreak run ended with a sense-defying leap from a 20 foot high wood platform into the swirling chilling seawater below. If you weren’t awake by the end of that brutal cross-island sprint, that early May plunge sure did open your peepers.

There’s a lot to be said for ‘group think’ … Not one person from our group of 20 ever refused to go on that run or take that jump. Even Madge, a retired postal worker from Boston, who had never learned how to swim,  leaped.  She was always the last to go over.  As we ran past, she would put on a bulky life-preserver, stand jittering at the edge, and then jump, arms and legs akimbo.  Up she’d bounce sputtering and thrashing, gasping for air.

It quickly became a point of honor to be the last one to leap just before she did. The last jumper would stay in the water to accompany her dog paddle back to shore. Her fearlessness and her determination to ‘JUST DO IT’ certainly did inspire many of us lesser mortals. That’s the sweet part of the memory.

The bitter part?  That ocean sure was friggin’ FREEZING. It’s lucky none of us had a heart-attack on impact. No joke.  (Seriously, what person in their right mind would shock their body systems in this way???)

Brave souls – I guess.
Photo credit: Polarbear.ca

So, it with a mixture of both admiration and incredulous disbelief I am pleased to report that Polar Bear Dips on the first day of the New Year are alive and well at several points around Lake Ontario.  New Years Day events are planned at Port Dover, Toronto, Port Hope, Kingston and Newcastle. Many crazy Canucks are gathering lakeside to gingerly run over the snow, break through the ice, and dive in.  (Nuts eh?)

Is our columnist expecting to see a crowd on Burlington Beach New Year’s Day?  Nuts is right.  No Polar Bear Dip ‘officially’ planned as of yet …

Probably the best known, and certainly the best promoted, is the Polar Bear Dip at Coronation Park, just outside of our Burlington city limits, off Lakeshore Blvd, going east towards Toronto.  Founded (appropriately) by brothers Todd and Trent COURAGE, these hardy gents have been leading the charge for 27 years. To date, they have raised nearly 1 million dollars to support World Vision’s water works in both Tanzania and Rwanda.  (Not too shabby for a bunch of NUTS!!)  Courage Polar Bear Dip 2012 video.

Their event has turned into quite a hyped media event.   Today, you can also follow twitter hashtags: #milliondollardip, #polarbeardip or follow the events from a web site   Or watch archival video on YouTube.

This year there will be a judged costume event, a hot tub soak after-the-fact, live music by Whaling. and a post-plunge bash at the Tin Cup in Oakville.   Pledges and registration continue up until approximately 1:30 pm on the day of the event, with the ‘dip’ occurring – en masse – at 2pm. Expected ‘dippers’ this year? 500 to 800.  (Nuts, eh? ) So, if you can’t quite buck up the courage to dive headlong into crashing stone-cold waves, you can always congratulate and financially support  these fun-loving and foolhardy types who do.

As an afterthought, this Christmas card sort of sums up the blind faith and courage that veteran Polar Bears routinely exhibit.  Makes wonderful nonsensical sense, don’t it?

Mark your calendars now for next year’s dip:  January 1st, New Years Day.  Volunteer from terra firma.   Or just sit back and watch REAL Polar Bears do their thing LIVE from the warm comfort of your home –

Happy New Year.

Margaret Lindsay Holton is both an environmentalist and a community activist.  She is an artist of some renown and the designer of a typeface.  She is also a photographer and the holder of opinions, which are her own, that she will share with you in an instant.   She appears as an Our Burlington columnist every two weeks. All photographs are by MLH unless otherwise indicated.

 Editor’s note: One must observe that our columnist doesn’t say if her  “admiration and incredulous disbelief” applies to her personal plans for New Year’s Day.

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3 comments to A quick dip in Lake Ontario at this time of year? Are you NUTS??? But, hey, Congrats!!

  • parrking

    Love your paper! I’m an old fart. How can I increase the font size to aid these failing eyes?

    Jim Frizzle

    Editors Note: There are plans in the works to add a feature that will allow readers to increase the size of the type on the page.

    • Hans-Peter Boergers

      In the tools option of Internet browsers there should be a ‘zoom’ function that allows increasing the magnification of the page being viewed. This will allow your readers to increase the displayed type size.

      • parrking

        That feature, along with the ability to print and email a story will be available shortly.
        Thank you for reading Our Burlington.