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New Year's Day swim leaves some numb with delight

CeeVacs Road Runners Sheron Chrysler (left), Danna Hadden, Susan Marshall, Colleen Van Der Heide, and Wendy Williams dashed into the new year with Wednesday
CeeVacs Road Runners Sheron Chrysler (left), Danna Hadden, Susan Marshall, Colleen Van Der Heide, and Wendy Williams dashed into the new year with Wednesday's Polar Bear Swim at Maple Bay. The chilling party was twinned by bracing swims in Cowichan Bay and Shawnigan Lake.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Pipe-major Frank Nicol and the Cowichan Pipes and Drums' duty was almost done.

They'd musically led scantily dressed, brave-heart swimmers to the Jan. 1 starting rope beside Maple Bay Rowing Club.

Time seemed frozen in the damp, cold air as families and friends readied cameras for about 75 fidgeting folks to take their polar-bear plunge to toast the new year.

Swimmers, some in wacky costumes, shifted in frosty anticipation of their bracing run to the drink that nudged 48 degrees.

Nicol and crew broke into Auld Land Syne (Time Goes By).

Suddenly, Peter Phillips' high-noon cannon blasted, sending the hearty hoard whooping and yelling down the ramp and into the calm sea — and out almost as fast.

Water-loggged togs spanned three women in colourful wigs and hats, a frisky lion, one guy wearing a big 'headcheese', Spiderman, a rugby player, Mrs. Claus, and many other characters.

Young and old, sober and tipsy; they shared one bond: the dip.

How does it feel hitting that cold water?

"Totally numb, when the shock hit me," said Cheryl Baudin. "Initially, it's exhilarating; it's a real rush. I'd definitely do it again."

First-timer Bonnie Baines called the feeling "fantastic. Time stops, then starts again."

Millet Gilchrist was thrilled after taking her plunge.

"I'm so happy to have done it. My husband was chicken."

Germain Lamothe, a Frenchman teaching rugby at Shawnigan Lake School described the bone-freezing drink as "so cold; trés froid but amazing."

"It's a wake-up call," explained tire dealer Rob Nikirk. "You really catch your breath when you get out of the water."

But Ethan Crawford, 9, seemed an old hand during his third time in the New Year's brine.

"Once I got my whole body in, it wasn't cold."

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