Thursday April 24, 2014

Taking the plunge

Keith Anderson

Ken Eldridge and Chris Wright wait for the noon hour on New Year's Day before entering the South Thompson River off Riverside Park for the 22nd annual Polar Bear Swim.

It didn't matter if they came for a first time or 15th, those who took part in the annual Polar Bear Swim offered the same advice for charging into a cold body of water.

"Don't think. Just do. Do not think. There's no brain required," said Chris Wright.

"When you hit the water, your feet already want to turn around. You have to keep going."

Dressed in a green kilt and black, Viking Pride T-shirt, Wright knew what he was in for during the minutes leading to the noon dip Wednesday.

He has enjoyed 20 Polar Bear Swims, both in Kamloops and Trail, and it's always the same.

"It's cold," he said.

Fortunately, he comes from Scottish and Icelandic descent, and is 100-per-cent Canadian, said Wright, adding he can take it.

He friend, Ken Eldridge, agreed: you've just got to go for it. He said this comes from 15 years of experience.

He and Eldridge were among a group of 12 that planned to enjoy the swim at Riverside Park. Wright said their friends didn't have the guts to show up.

"They've all surrendered their man cards for the year," he said laughing. "They're going to be revoked."

Sue Davidson planned to "just go for it" prior to her first polar bear plunge.

"It's going to be fun," she said.

Davidson decided to partake while enjoying Christmas in Mexico with her husband, Ken. Ken declined to join her, saying he preferred to offer moral support.

After a quick dip in the river, a cold Davidson said the experience lived up to her expectations.

"It was great, just great," she said, adding she will do it again next year.

Several swimmers dressed as burlesque dancers or medieval wizards. Kayla Ruddock chose her dancer's costume because it was fun.

She has done the swim four years in a row, and enjoyed it so much she convinced Mike Thesen to give it a try. His last Polar Bear Swim was in Vancouver in 1995.

"I thought it was time to try again," he said.

Dripping wet after her swim, Maddy Ferguson believed it was warmer to keep the wizard costume on rather than take it off.

She has worn the costume to Times Square in New York and during the Slush Cup at Sun Peaks Resort, she said. This was her first Polar Bear Swim, but she swims in glacial lakes during family backcountry adventures.

Having survived her first polar bear plunge, she recommends others give it a try.

"It's fun," said Ferguson.

Organizer Joe Picton is thrilled with the turnout. He said at least 100 people took part, with almost as many spectators.

"I think this thing is just growing like crazy," he said.

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