Polar Bear Swims to ring in the new year take place across the globe annually, and Port Alberni is no different, drawing hundreds of swimmers and spectators to Canal Beach for a jump into the freezing water.
The PEAK 93.3 will be hosting its third annual Polar Bear Swim on New Year’s Day, at 1 p.m. at Canal Beach.
“One o’clock is when everyone rushes in there,” said PEAK operations manager David Wiwichar.
Organizer John Douglas says that the emphasis this year will be on team entries. “That’s expanded a little bit,” he said. His own team will be going with a “Gilligan’s Island” theme. The Bread of Life and Kinsmen Club will also be organizing their own teams, and there will be prizes for the best group, best costume, and oldest swimmer.
“We pushed back the time a little this year to accommodate the late risers after New Year’s Eve,” said Douglas. “We’re also jokingly suggesting that it might be a bit warmer.”
The theme, says Douglas, is warming up with your community.
The swim is collaborating a little more with local fundraising this year. Bread of Life has teamed up with the See Group of Companies, who will be paying a twoonie for everyone who goes into the water, and is also negotiating with other sponsors.
Port Alberni Shelter Society’s Raising the Roof winter wear will also be sold on site, with 50 percent of all funds going to affordable housing programs in the Valley, and the other half going to national programs.
Food will be available from the concession provided by the Kiwanis Club, including coffee, tea, hot chocolate and hotdogs. The funds will be going to a future special project for the beach itself.
“It’s a really great event to celebrate the community, celebrate New Year’s and support local causes,” said Douglas. “There’s a little more every year.”
The Port Alberni Fire Department will be coordinating safety. Ambulance and fire services, as well as the coast guard auxiliary, will be on site to assist if the need arises.
The Alberni Valley amateur radio group will be coordinating parking, including a spot at the bottom for people with disabilities. People are encouraged to arrive early. “It gets bigger every year,” he said.