B-r-r-r-r-inging in the New Year

Dozens of people in costumes braved the cold waters of the Somass River for a New Year's Day polar bear swim, Port Alberni style.

Gray

Gray

The unofficial Kinsmen polar bear swim kicked off at 2 p.m. precisely on New Year’s Day, and despite dozens of Port Albernians braving the cold water of the Somass River, the parking lot started clearing out eight minutes later.

From a countdown of 10 seconds, the costumed masses ran down the slimy boat ramp in front of nearly 100 onlookers, squealed and splashed their way into the water and equally as fast were out again and towelling off. The air temperature, according to one swimmer, was “cold-30”.

Jim Rutherford was the oldest swimmer at 96 years, while Cole Kenzie was the youngest at seven. He wasn’t too sure whether running into the cold water down the boat ramp at Clutesi Haven Marina was such a good idea, but Rutherford was happy to have extended his streak.

The Kinsmen dressed up in ’60s themed costumes, and many of them took the annual dip along with their kids. Brian Hartt has been participating in the swim for the past seven years with his daughter, Chantal. This year he donned a helmet cam in order to preserve the memory.

Hartt has been working in Norman Wells, in the Northwest Territories, where the temperature was around minus-20 degrees Celsius with a wind chill making it feel like minus-30.