© Copyright – 2018 – Victoria Sports News

Success. Troy Birtwistle performs ceremonial first dive. Photo credit: Colin Smith, Victoria Buzz.

The 2018 Victoria Sports News New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim took place on Monday, Jan. 1 and the event was a swimming success.

Approximately 300 people showed up at the south end of Esquimalt Lagoon, while 60-80 of them dove into the frigid, but calm waters.

“Oh I do this every year anyway,” shared Adam Lawrence. “But I appreciate the event. The swim makes you feel good all day – going in isn’t that pleasant, but you feel refreshed afterward.”

People of all ages jumped into the water, from four to 82.

Troy Birtwistle, an assistant coach with the Victoria HarbourCats West Coast League baseball team performed the ceremonial first dive, while in full uniform at 11:55 am. The mass swim took place five minutes later.

“It wasn’t so bad actually,” shared Birtwistle, who was running on just a few hours of sleep after attending his sister’s wedding in the Cowichan Valley.

The winner of the “first-in, fully immersed” challenge was Victoria-area triathlete Rob Sainsbury. For his efforts, Jim Swanson, owner of the HarbourCats, presented him with a prize package from the team.

The Eve’s of Destruction Roller Derby team showed up, however, some of their teammates were delayed and they chose to wait until 1:00 pm to dive in.

“We were here to challenge the HarbourCats,” shared one of the players. “But we couldn’t get the whole team down in time. Next year. Let it be known, we would have won.”

Photo credit: Colin Smith, Victoria Buzz.

The HarbourCats challenged other sports teams to show up, however, the gesture was simply to bring in more swimmers.

“Next year we will do a formal team challenge,” shared organizer Christopher Kelsall. “Today was a success but I learned a couple of operational ideas that we will incorporate for next year’s dip, to make it even better.”

Proceeds from the by-donation dip are split between Runners of Compassion, which is a Frontrunners initiative as well as KidSport Greater Victoria.

“Synergy Health Centre was the presenting sponsor,” added Kelsall. “The swim wasn’t happening without their help. With Frontrunners, the HarbourCats and Victoria Buzz’s help, we had a pretty good event.”

Rob Sainsbury wins “First-in, full immersed” Victoria HarbourCats package. Photo credit: Colin Smith, Victoria Buzz.

There were several polar bear swims in Greater Victoria, with one in nearby Metchosin, which took place at Witty’s Lagoon, while Sidney had their annual dip at Tulista Park beach. It is organized by the Peninsula Celebrations Society and is a long-running event. In Brentwood Bay, neighbours got together for their own annual swim in Finlayson Arm, which included housecoats and adult beverages after.

“It was fun and it is nice to have a family-friendly and holiday type of event to wrap our brand around, going forward. KidSport and Runners of Compassion do good things in the community,” added Kelsall.