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Overflow crowd enjoys 2014 Polar Bear Swim

Nelson Daily Staff
By Nelson Daily Staff
January 1st, 2014

Nelson’s Polar Bear Swim is so popular, participants come all parts of the region to roll out the New Year in style.

More than 100 brave, hardy, souls flocked to Nelson’s Lakeside Park beach to take the plunge into Kootenay Lake at the 2014 Rhythm Ropers Polar Bear Swim Wednesday at High Noon.

And it didn’t matter the age, swimmers young and old made the sprint, in and out, of the frigid waters of Kootenay Lake to ring in the New Year.

“It’s a great way to start the New Year and (the dip) is very refreshing,” Castlegar’s Tamara Matthews told The Nelson Daily before hopping into Kootenay Lake.

“I do it for the hell of it . . . but I love it,” said Steve LaBossiere, a recent transplant to the Heritage City from Kamloops making his 10th trek into unchartered waters on New Years Day.

“It’s a great adrenaline rush.”

With the thermometer hovering around the zero Celsius mark, Executive Director at Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce Tom Thomson counted down the seconds before the Nelson Search and Rescue Boat sounded the horn for the mad dash to the waters of Kootenay Lake.

For some participants, the rush out of the Kootenay Lake was quicker than the sprint into the cool waters.

“Usually for about a minute . . . I don’t stay in the water too long,” said Matthews, adding her uncle and oldest daughter were also ready for the challenge.

“Some years I try to stay in a little bit longer because the time to warm up is about the same. And we race to Ainsworth as fast as possible to warm up.”

Rhythm Ropers Skippers organizer Wendy Thomson was unsure what the response would be considering the local skipping club took over the annual New Year’s Day event from the Kootenay Lake Hospital Foundation.

However, with more than 100 swimmers and a crowd that probably topped 300, the event was definitely a success.

“I’m really pleased at how the event went,” said Thomson, adding the Rhythm Ropers, who sold Chilli and hot chocolate, used the event as fundraiser.

“We had so many people come out today and were probably a little fortunate with the weather.”

Nelson Search and Rescue were on hand along with a few kayakers in case anyone came under duress in the water.

BC Ambulance was also in attendance.

Everyone entered and left Kootenay Lake without assistance so the only thing both emergency services groups were needed for was to join hundreds of spectators and enjoy what proved to be an amazing event.

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