There was no official Polar Bear Swim for Port Alberni this year, but that didn’t stop several people from greeting 2023 with a frigid dip in the waters around the city.
David Wiwchar and several friends held a “Come in From the Cold” fundraiser for their informal Polar Bear Swim, raising more than $150 for the warming centre on Third Avenue. Five swimmers—Wiwchar, Michael Ramsay from the Salvation Army, Dan and Bouchra Savard and Jeff Cook—ran down one of the boat ramps at Clutesi Haven Marina at noon on New Year’s Day for a quick dunk, presenting Ramsay with the cash raised for the warming centre before quickly dispersing to their vehicles.
A steady trickle of people went to Canal Beach to dunk themselves in the Alberni Inlet. Heather Neville, 69, a retired nurse, said this New Year’s Day dip was much warmer than last year, when she completed her swim on Prince Edward Island—in -20 degrees Celsius weather.
She was on her way to change when some Alberni District Secondary School students and friends arrived to go for a swim. Neville decided to go back into the water with them.
The students were there to support Totem Spirit candidate Macee Norlock, who decided a week earlier to get a group of friends together for an informal Polar Bear Swim. “I asked people if they wanted to come and do it with me and some said yes,” Norlock said afterwards.
She was not a newbie to the cold-water dip: she used to attend the New Year’s Day events with her parents when she was younger.
Hannah Rust, Melissa Pesch, Claire McAulay and Kyle Ralston all doffed their Totem “Team Macee” shirts before running into the water.
Other swimmers, some not yet 10 years old, and others a few decades older, came and went throughout the early afternoon, as the sun shone on the beach.