As is my tradition, I participated in the annual Polar Bear Dip here in Ottawa. For those readers who have not been initiated into world of Polar Bear Dipping, it’s pretty simple: on the first day of the new year, we take a swim in the river. In Ottawa, winter is a little on the severe side and we don’t have any open water to dip in, so we have to cut a hole. This year, we used a chainsaw to cut an approximately 1.5 x 2.5 metre hole through about 35cm of ice. We typically jump in in pairs, and I get to go first (so is the tradition).
I actually go in with a friend of mine, Lou, who is a 50-ish year old who lost a leg in an accident involving a hunter (he’s not a hunter himself) years ago. Every year, Lou does this thing where he takes off his leg and dips the toe of his artificial limb in the water and says “it’s not all that bad”. Funny stuff, but I guess you need to be there to get the full impact.
I’ve done the Polar Bear Dip for nine years now and am looking forward to doing for years to come. This year, we got international coverage. Naci send me some links (, , ) from a website in Turkey. I’m the guy holding the rope in the first one and I’m plunging out of the water in the second. According to Fintan, I made the national newspaper in Ireland, and according to Matthew, I was featured in the Daily Mirror in the UK. It’s nice to know that a bunch of insane people doing crazy stuff is considered news in other parts of the world.
It may seem like a crazy thing to do, but it’s really not that big a deal. It’s actually fun. No, really. Sure, it’s cold, but after you dry off and get dressed, you’re warm again. Realistically, you’re only cold for about 10 minutes. It was a balmy -9 C on Sunday (plus some windchill); not all that bad, really.
The Polar Bear Dip couldn’t happen without the support of Albert at The Rideau Osgoode Karate Club. Albert initiated the effort and has been running it for ten years. He gets all the resources and people together and it’s he who actually cuts the hole in the ice (with help, of course). The big reason behind the effort is charity. All funds raised by the dip are donated to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).
Unfortunately, our fundraising efforts this year have fallen short. Despite the fact that 39 people participated in the dip, we’ve collected far less money than in past years. If you’d like to make a (tax deductible) contribution, please let me know.