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Polar bear swims test participants’ iron constitution

Courtney Kozack, left, Fred Maguire, Travis Carmichael, Charles Sutton, Darren McGee, Brad Ney, Buddy McRae, Barry Clark and Jessica Phillips of Royal LePage Nanaimo Realty are ready to dive into the water at Departure Bay beach, site of the realty group’s Boxing Day Polar Bear Swim.  - KARL YU/The News Bulletin
Courtney Kozack, left, Fred Maguire, Travis Carmichael, Charles Sutton, Darren McGee, Brad Ney, Buddy McRae, Barry Clark and Jessica Phillips of Royal LePage Nanaimo Realty are ready to dive into the water at Departure Bay beach, site of the realty group’s Boxing Day Polar Bear Swim.
— image credit: KARL YU/The News Bulletin

Ironman competitors and brave souls will have two opportunities to test their mettle in frigid waters this holiday season.

There will be a traditional polar bear swim in Lantzville on Jan. 1 as well as one in Nanaimo on Boxing Day and both are longtime events.

The swim in Lantzville, organized by Kim Plumley and John Garenkooper, will take place near Harper Beach at noon and according to Plumley, was started 20 years ago by Garenkooper. She said it’s a fun event despite the cold and there will also be a bonfire going to keep people warm.

“I do it with my whole family – except my small daughter now is too smart. She says ‘I’m not doing that,’ – but we always say if we can do that on New Year’s Day, we can do pretty much anything throughout the year,” said Plumley, adding that it’s “silly fun.” She recommends bringing water shoes.

About six days earlier, more specifically Boxing Day, Royal LePage Nanaimo Realty will be hosting a polar bear swim at Departure Bay Beach at Kin Hut beginning at 1 p.m., with registration beginning at 11:30 a.m.

The Nanaimo swim has been taking place for 54 years, started by former mayor, the late Frank Ney, and as such, is officially called the 54th annual Frank Ney Memorial Polar Bear Swim.

“Boxing Day gives us a bit of a jump on everybody else that’s out there,” explained Royal LePage realtor and organizer Buddy McRae. “We find there’s a lot of people that visit family and friends in and around Nanaimo that time of year and Boxing Day generally can be a bit of a quieter day out there, too.”

In addition, the Shriners will be on hand, selling hot dogs, with proceeds going to the B.C. Children’s Hospital Burn Fund and there will be a 50/50 draw with proceeds going to the Haven Society in Nanaimo.

Both McRae and Plumley say their events are free, a welcome relief from the stresses of the holidays and are encouraging participants to come in costume.

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