The Niagara News is the community newspaper of Niagara College located in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. It is created and produced by the students of the Niagara College Journalism program.
Some people jump out of airplanes. Others climb mountains. I prefer running half naked into an icy lake on New Year’s Day.
It wasn’t my idea, I swear.
It was New Year’s Day 2009. My sister and I were choking down a greasy post-drinking breakfast at an overcrowded diner. My sister’s cell phone rang. It was mom.
"What are you guys doing?" mom asks.
"Being hung over, and you?" my sister replies.
She nods, shakes her head and hands the phone to me.
"Yes, mother," I say.
"You want to come and spot me today? I am doing the Polar Bear Dip," she says. The spotter hands the dipper a towel so the dippers don’t freeze to death.
I told her I would love to, but I was too hung over. There was no way I was driving to Oakville.
"How about this?" I say. "Next year, I will join you."
New Year’s Day 2010 came quickly. It was a gray, snowy, below-freezing day. With a duffle bag packed with towels and dry clothes and a mind filled with excitement and uncertainty, I made the drive to Oakville.
Mom was waiting for me. I registered for the event and got a coffee, and then joined her in line. She told me we were going to be in the "first wave" of dippers.
It was a cold wait. There were so many people – children, older folks and crazier people dressed in costume – and they were all waiting to get into the cold waters of Lake Ontario. Finally, five minutes before 2 p.m. the first hundred or so participants were allowed to enter the beach area to prepare. I took off the warm hat, robe, jacket and sweats I was wearing, and my mom did the same.
Shorts and a T-shirt on Jan. 1? I must be nuts.
We advanced to the shoreline and the countdown began.
"Three, two, one," all the dippers shouted, and with a ring of a bell we ran into the frigid water.
Exhilarating. Cold. Absolutely insane.
It’s a tradition now. My mom and I indulged again this year, and it was a great experience. I have decided to keep it going and will do the dip every year I can.
Instead of reaching for the Tylenol on New Year’s Day, I will reach for my towel.